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OTTAWA — Mike Reilly led a late rally, while Grant Shaw kicked the game-winning field goal with 20 seconds left to lead the Edmonton Eskimos to a 10-8 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Friday night in Ottawa.
On a night where the biggest plays came on the defensive side of the ball, not a single touchdown was scored as two surging defences flexed their muscles in an impressive performance that frustrated both quarterbacks. But in the end despite trailing for the first 59:40, the Eskimos rallied for the last-second win to take a temporary hold of top spot in the West Division.
The Eskimos’ star quarterback faced constant pressure from the REDBLACKS defence, but in the end made the big plays required to come away with the all-important win. He finished the night with 271 passing yards with an interception on 26-35 passing, but most impressive was his courageous effort running the ball on the way to 78 rushing yards on eight carries.
Henry Burris chipped in with 255 passing yards on 18-28 passing, while Chevon Walker added 58 rushing yards on 14 carries for the REDBLACKS. Former Eskimo Matt Carter meanwhile had a game-high 97 receiving yards on five catches, but not to be outdone was Adarius Bowman with 92 receiving yards on six catches – most of which coming on a game-winning drive in the final minutes.
Field position became a focus from the outset in this one, as two aggressive defences set in and made their mark early. Fittingly with the REDBLACKS up 1-0 late in the first, the game’s first big play game on a defensive effort and a mistake by Reilly, as the second-year Eskimo floated an errant pass that was picked off by Brandon Thompson to give Ottawa possession at the Edmonton 20.
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But after a first down to Carter, the Eskimo defence stepped up with two big stops in along the goal line to force a short field goal from Brett Maher.
After the Eskimos threatened but the Ottawa defence held for a punt, the REDBLACKS offence went back to work, starting with the game’s first big offensive play. Burris stepped up and found Miles Wallace behind coverage, and the 22-year-old sprinted along the sideline for a 55-yard gain.
Shortly after Burris completed another pass to move the offence close and also eclipse the 53,000 career passing yards mark, but the drive stalled shortly after forcing another Maher field goal to extend the lead to 7-1.
Fortunate to trail only by six, the Eskimos quickly went to work in search of a response. After a quick completion to Devon Bailey, Reilly found scatback Kendial Lawrence on a swing pass for a 24-yard gain well into Ottawa territory.
Again though defence ruled the day, and the Eskimos had to settle from a 39-yard field goal by Shaw to cut the deficit to 7-4, marking Shaw’s seventh straight successful three-pointer.
The REDBLACKS added a punt single on another deep ball to Carter, while the Eskimos threatened near halftime following a 31-yard run by Reilly down the sideline. But Edmonton couldn’t penetrate any further while Shaw couldn’t connect on the long field goal, sending the REDBLACKS into the half with an 8-4 lead.
In the third quarter a pair of roughing the passer penalties on Jonathan Williams negated two second-down stops, moving the Eskimos deep into Ottawa territory. A completion to Nate Coehoorn followed by a first-down run for Reilly put the Esks inside the five, but disaster struck on the next play when a fumbled snap led to a fumble.
Somewhere under the pile the REDBLACKS came up with the loose ball, getting out of another red zone situation and maintaining a narrow lead. The penalty issues continued after that, as Burris was picked off on the very next play for a touchdown return by Marcell Young – only to be negated by a horse-collar tackle on the quarterback. Another Eskimo penalty aided the REDBLACKS up field, but the Gold and Green defence wound up forcing a punt. The Esks responded with a strong possession offensively, once again threatening with more points, this time to add another three points on a field goal from Shaw.
Then to end the third with the Eskimos threatening to take their first lead of the game, things went awry once again on a turnover. Tyler Thomas had the ball stripped by a REDBLACKS linebacker, and there to scoop it up was Williams to give Ottawa possession with the lead to start the fourth quarter.
But following another big defensive stop, the Eskimos offence again began threatening. A first-down completion to Bowman following another to Coehoorn got the drive started, before another completion to Bowman and a pair of elusive runs by Reilly moved Edmonton back into the red zone.
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Adarius Bowman was quiet for most of the night, but he came up big when it counted most. The dynamic star receiver had three catches for 46 yards on the game’s final drive, leading the Esks to a last-second game-winning field goal.
Looking to keep the drive alive after a nine-yard pickup on second down rather than settle for a short Shaw field goal to take the lead, Head Coach Chris Jones elected to gamble on third down. With short-yardage quarterback Pat White under centre, the speedster bumpbed the play outside but was smothered by a hungry REDBLACKS defence.
After the measurement the Esks came up inches short, leading to the Esks’ second turnover of the game in the red zone and returning possession to the REDBLACKS with just over seven minutes left in the game. This time desperately needing a stop and the ball back, the Eskimo defence began to cave a little bit.
Penalties extended the drive after a quick sack on Burris, then some strong running and a completed to Henry downfield helped the home team run the clock inside four minutes. The biggest momentum swing of the game followed however after another long Burris completion to Carter, when the receiver had the ball ripped out of his grasp by Alonzo Lawrence only to be recovered by the Eskimos in their own end of the field.
It was the REDBLACKS’ first turnover of the game, and it was enough to give the Eskimos a first down and new life with the ball and only a one-point deficit with more than enough time remaining.
Reilly went to work from his own 10, stepping into a throw to Bowman along the sideline for an impressive tip-toe catch up to the 30-yard-line. Reilly went right back to Bowman on the sideline for that for a 12-yard gain, then on the next play refusing to give up the elusive quarterback evaded heavy pressure, then fought through tacklers to pick up the first down with his legs.
Another completion to Bowman followed by a Reilly run and a big first down by the short-yardage team helped the Esks run down the clock and move into field position, eventually leading to Shaw’s third field goal of the night and the team’s first lead. The REDBLACKS had 20 seconds to respond but couldn’t move into field goal range, sending them to another difficult loss against a West Division team.
The Esks look to build on the momentum of a two-game road sweep with a return home to face the Argos next Saturday night, while the REDBLACKS will try again at TD Place against another Western opponent in a rematch with the Calgary Stampeders.