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EDMONTON — Jon Cornish had another night to remember, as the Stamps just held on for an impressive 20-18 win on the road over the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday.
Cornish rushed for 187 yards, while Esks kicker Grant Shaw put a 42-yard field goal attempt off the upright with no time remaining, as the Stamps swept a two-game back-to-back with their division rivals.
Calgary opened quick, moving into Eskimo territory on a completion from Kevin Glenn and some strong inside running from Cornish.
From there, Glenn aired it out and found Johnny Forzani, who beat cornerback Joe Burnett on a double move to grab his first touchdown of the season on a 37-yard scoring play.
That gave the Stamps an early 7-0 lead, in a game where getting on the board first has extra meaning with both teams coming in on a short week.
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On the ensuing drive, Eskimos QB Kerry Joseph and the Esks went straight to work though. The 38-year-old veteran passer quickly found Cary Koch for back-to-back completions to move the chains, before Hugh Charles found a seam up the middle and burst through for a big gain into Calgary territory.
The drive would stall there though, as Malik Jackson got through the line and brought down Joseph for a loss that would knock the Esks out of field goal range, forcing Grant Shaw onto the field to punt.
The Stamps would strike again with the big play on the next possession, when Glenn hooked up with Romby Bryant for a 50-yard pickup. The Esks defence held up from there though, forcing a 28-yard field goal from Rene Paredes to give the visitors a 10-1 lead.
The Esks would get a chance to strike back in the second quarter though, when they’d start with great field position after Burke Dales was forced to punt from inside his own end zone.
The Green and Gold would move the chains a few times and threaten, but the Stamps’ defence continued its impressive start, forcing Shaw on the field for a 22-yard yard field goal to cut the deficit to 10-4.
But the Stamps once again showed their offensive flare, and a knack for solving the stingy Esks defence. A Glenn completion to Bryant followed by a long run by Cornish put the Stamps within striking distance once again.
Then, as Glenn went over the top looking for the touchdown, he’d draw a pass interference penalty, putting the ball down at the two-yard-line.
From there everything went wrong for Calgary though, as backup pivot Bo Levi Mitchell would be stuffed on first down, setting the Stamps back at the five. Then on second down, after Glenn found Nik Lewis wide open for what seemed to be a touchdown, the play was called back on offensive pass interference.
That would turn out to be a big penalty, as on the very next play, Chris Thompson fought off Forzani on a jump ball in the end zone, and came down with the ball for the interception.
Despite what seemed like a major turning point though, the Esks couldn’t muster up any offence, as they continued to struggle with the Calgary defence on a quick two-and-out.
Late in the half, the Esks finally seemed to be figuring out the Stamps defence, moving deep into Stamps territory. But as Shaw lined up for the 42-yard kick, the snap was fumbled. Nichols alertly grabbed the loose ball and rolled out, eventually finding an open Corbin Sharun for the touchdown to give the Esks an 11-10 lead at the half.
In the second half, the game quickly became all about field position. The Stamps opened with a promising drive after a quick Eskimo two-and-out, but Lee Robinson thwarted the attack with his second sack of the season to knock the Stamps out of possible field goal range.
The Esks would move the ball on their next chance, too, but would also have to settle for a punt, pinning the Stamps deep in their own end.
But Glenn responded, moving the Stamps quickly and efficiently all the way down the field and into Esks territory.
With the end zone in close range though, Glenn would be foiled once again by Thompson, who would make a leaping interception for his second of the game, giving the Esks the ball back and keeping the Stamps off the board in what turned out to be a scoreless third quarter.
The Stamps would get close again soon though, as Cornish continued to impress on a second and five play, breaking one tackle at the line of scrimmage and then several more on the way to a 30-yard gain. Matt Walter would add a 12-yard pickup on the next play, and after turning the ball over in the red zone in recent attempts, this time the Stamps would hang on to the ball.
They’d eventually settle on a 14-yard boot from Parades for his second field goal of the game, giving the Stamps the first points of the half and regaining the lead.
The Esks could only flirt with disaster for so long though.
With the offence struggling to find anything through most of the second half, the Stamps would finally make good on a chance to increase their lead, when Cornish struck again with another long run, taking it 59 yards untouched for his team’s second touchdown of the game.
That made it 20-11 Calgary, and with 5:10 remaining in the game, suddenly Joseph and the Esks had to dig themselves out of quite a hole – but they weren’t about to bow out quietly.
Just as fans may have started thinking about heading for the doors, Joseph connected on a series of completions to keep the drive alive, eventually capping off a long drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to a lunging Fred Stamps, cutting the deficit to two points with just over two minutes remaining.
On the next drive, the Stamps offence would get a chance to put the game away though. After Cornish was stuffed on first down, Glenn stepped into the pocket and hooked up with Marquay McDaniel to move the chains and run some time off the clock.
That’s as far as they would get though, as the Esks quickly held, forcing a punt with 1:17 remaining in the game. On the ensuing punt, there was more trouble for the Stamps, as Koch on the return would be knocked out of bounds late, drawing a 15-yard flag and giving the Esks the ball up at midfield.
Needing just a field goal for the win, Joseph threw incomplete on first down and on second down had to scramble out of pressure for a gain of just two yards, setting up a third and long.
That’s when he found Marcus Henry, who continued his hot night, making an impressive leaping catch on third and 18 yards to go. That would set up Shaw for a 42-yard field goal attempt, but the non-import in his first season with the Esks couldn’t convert for the second week in a row, this time plunking the right upright.
Joseph led a solid drive to get into field goal range, and finished the night with 275 yards and a touchdown on 27-35 passing for another strong start. His counterpart, Glenn, was picked off twice, but still finished with 254 yards and a touchdown.
Next Week for Edmonton: The Esks head to Southern Ontario for their first battle of the year with the Ticats. BUY TICKETS.
Next Week for Calgary: The Stamps return home to face Chad Simpson and the Bombers, as the two teams meet for the first time in 2012. BUY TICKETS.