GERRY’S SIDE­LINES

Esks’ kick­ing crew paving way for strong fin­ish … Place­kicker Whyte light­ing it up again … Punter O’neill makes wel­come return ... Ti­cats’ Wynn pay­ing price for blind­side block

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - edmonton ESKIMOS gmod­de­[email protected]­media.com @Sunmod­de­jonge

If the Edmonton Eskimos are head­ing into the fi­nal stretch of the reg­u­lar season look­ing to kick things up a notch, then they may just as well fol­low the lead of their own kick­ing game.

A 10-day trip through Ot­tawa and Hamil­ton saw punter Hugh O’neill return to ac­tive duty off the six-game in­jured list from a bad knee that in­ter­rupted ca­reer numbers in punt­ing av­er­ages. And they came out of it with place­kicker Sean Whyte lay­ing claim to the long­est ac­tive CFL field-goal streak at 20 straight af­ter go­ing two-for-two be­tween the up­rights in both games.

“(O’neill has) been through a lot through­out his ca­reer, so it’s good to see him go out there and be suc­cess­ful and show how good he re­ally is,” said Whyte, who ad­mits to not pay­ing at­ten­tion to the ebbs and flows of his kicks. “I don’t look at stats, I just want to win foot­ball games.”

BEST YEARS

That puts Whyte at 42 of 47 on the season, or 89.4 per cent, mak­ing all five of his sea­sons in Edmonton the most suc­cess­ful in his 11-year ca­reer so far, fol­low­ing up a 92.3 per cent ac­cu­racy on the way to the 2015 Grey Cup cham­pi­onship with back-to-back sea­sons of 93.8 per cent, and then 90 per cent last year.

His streak of 20-and-count­ing has sur­passed a run of 17 straight to start the season, be­fore run­ning into a bit of a rough patch where he missed four kicks across four games.

“Ev­ery kicker’s go­ing to go through some stretch where you’re not kick­ing per­fect,” Eskimos head coach Ja­son Maas said. “Ul­ti­mately, that’s what hap­pened this year with Sean. He did start out so well and then a cou­ple things here and there where he made some ad­just­ments and now he’s back on a field-goal streak.

“He’s also com­ing off of six weeks of do­ing both du­ties and you could see (against Ot­tawa and Hamil­ton), when Hugh is in there, Hugh can do the job, too, so it takes a lit­tle pres­sure off of Sean. But I thought Sean did a tremen­dous job fill­ing in and ob­vi­ously kick­ing the ball through the up­rights is what he’s paid to do and he does it ex­tremely well.”

In O’neill’s ab­sence, Whyte had as­sumed the du­ties of kick­ing off and punt­ing, as well.

“He def­i­nitely did a great job hold­ing down the fort while I was gone,” O’neill said. “I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing back there with him. I’ve been a guy do­ing all three, too, so I was by my­self and I think that you pre­fer that com­pany out there, some­one to talk to and kind of work through things.”

O’neill’s return to duty also pro­vides some in­surance for the team, in case any­thing hap­pens to the field-goal kicker.

“Ex­actly. We both can kind of rely on each other to keep things go­ing if the other guy is hav­ing an is­sue,” O’neill said. “He def­i­nitely did a great job those six games.”

Whyte said he ben­e­fited from the ex­tra ac­tiv­ity.

“Any­time you get to go in and help out the team more, it’s great,” he said. “Kick­ing field goals is ex­cit­ing with all that pres­sure, but it’s nice to go out and punt, kick off and get the nerves out and you feel more into the game. The last game (in Ot­tawa), I didn’t get a kick late into the sec­ond, so it’s a tough sit­u­a­tion when you’ve got to sit around and then go out and hit a 50-yarder.

“I think it fo­cused me and ac­tu­ally my body feels bet­ter from do­ing it. It loos­ened me up and, yeah, it was good.”

SHAR­ING KIL­GORE

For the past three weeks, Whyte has had to share his holder, quar­ter­back Lo­gan Kil­gore, with the of­fence af­ter Trevor Harris went down with an in­jury to his throw­ing arm.

“He’s done a great job, it’s not some­thing that’s new,” Kil­gore said of Whyte. “You look over his ca­reer, he’s been ex­cel­lent. Ob­vi­ously, there’s a lot of pres­sure com­ing in as a new holder for him.

“There was a turn­ing point af­ter the first Ot­tawa game where him and I sat down and re­ally broke things down. From his per­spec­tive, get­ting a new holder in there, he didn’t know where I was men­tally. He didn’t know what he could and couldn’t say. And fi­nally I just told him, ‘I’m very con­fi­dent in that op­er­a­tion, but I need to know ex­actly what you need.’ ” And I think since then, even in prac­tice, it’s a money op­er­a­tion. (Long-snap­per) Ryan King does a great job get­ting the ball back there and I think Whitey and I have de­vel­oped that trust.”

FINE TIME

Hamil­ton Tiger-cats de­fen­sive line­man Dy­lan Wynn has been fined by the league for a blind­side block on Eskimos re­ceiver Te­vaun Smith, who has yet to prac­tise this week.

IN AND OUT

Join­ing the list of walk­ing wounded Wed­nes­day was QB Jeremiah Briscoe, while Kil­gore, DB Josh John­son, DE Kwaku Boateng and FB Calvin Mccarty were back prac­tis­ing af­ter sit­ting out Tues­day’s ses­sion. Re­main­ing out are C.J. Gable (knee), WR Greg Elling­son (leg) and CB Anthony Or­ange (leg).

IAN KUCERAK PHOTOS/POST­MEDIA

Eskimos place­kicker Sean Whyte (above) has the long­est ac­tive CFL field-goal streak at 20 straight, while punter Hugh O’neill (left) has re­turned to ac­tive duty off the six-game in­jured list from a bad knee.

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