EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Eskimos don’t have to wait long for a chance at revenge over their provincial rival, as they host the Calgary Stampeders in a Labour Day rematch on Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Both teams face a test in character and resolve as they play for the second time in just five days, and the Eskimos face the tougher task of having to bounce back.
It was another tough result in Calgary for the Esks, after they surged back from a 30-point deficit in the final eight minutes and pulled to within an earshot of winning the game.
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But as has been the theme of 2013, a furious last second comeback effort that witnessed four straight touchdowns in the later stages of the game has the Green and Gold hoping that maybe next game, they can put that kind of effort together for four quarters.
The focus in the second of back-to-back games against the Stamps will be on starting fast.
“Obviously it’s a matter of execution, that’s the simple answer,” Head Coach Kavis Reed told Esks.com when asked why the Eskimos have such a difficult time scoring points in the first quarter.
Over the span of their last five games, the Eskimos have scored just 21 points in first quarters – an average of three points each time out – and surrendered 40 points.
That’s why even though they’ve outscored opponents 86-37 in the fourth quarter, they’ve yet to overcome slow starts to games. Reed said there are positives, and in the end the only thing lacking is the ability to get ahead from the get-go.
“There are a lot of things we’ve done to move the ball in the first quarter, a lot of things that we’ve done well in responding to certain scores,” he continued. “Our offence has done in my opinion a tremendous job the last five games, barring last week’s performance.”
The Eskimos fought back with a score in the second quarter last week, but 20 unanswered points by Calgary put the Stampeders ahead 37-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
But as this year’s theme suggests, the Eskimos were never out of it. Reilly caught fire, throwing touchdown passes to Cary Koch, John White, Matt Carter, and Fred Stamps to cut the deficit to just three points.
Despite the loss, Reed points out that it’s that kind of resiliency that gives the Eskimos hope – something he hopes can carry into the opening quarter of Friday night’s home affair with the same Stampeders.
“This team was down by 30 points with 8:53 left in the game, and we saw that resolve,” said Reed. “This football team is not going to waiver.”
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“I’ve got to speak to the fact that we’ve done one thing right I believe, and that is indoctrinate them in terms of what the Edmonton Eskimo way is, and that is always doing things straight forward, always doing things the right way, and doing things with a purpose.”
Reilly, under siege all game, finished the afternoon with 246 yards and four touchdowns, but also threw a pair of interceptions and completed 16 of 35 passing attempts for a completion percentage of 45.7 per cent.
After the game, first-year General Manager Ed Hervey was critical about his team’s play, calling out one of the team’s locker-room leaders in offensive lineman Simeon Rottier.
Yet faced with questions about the team being in a dark place right now, Reed said that behind closed doors that is far from the truth – even if his team’s record warrants that kind of speculation.
“Our record exposes us to that, that’s not going to be deniable,” started Reed. “There is no chaos in our organization. There should be pressure on myself. There should be pressure on us to succeed. That’s the expectation this franchise has, no question about that – being 1-8 we are exposed to that, I’m not going to run away from that.”
“You see our football organization, you see our team and those guys are focused on trying to get a win. We’re not going to allow our resolve to be cracked. We’re going to be strong and we’re going to go out [on Friday] and we’re going to do what we need to do to try to get two points.”
The Stamps on the other hand have to be wondering which Eskimos team exactly is the one they can expect to see in Round 2 of the Battle of Alberta – the team that was out-scored 37-7 through the first 50 minutes, or the team that lit up the scoreboard in a span of just eight minutes.
Veteran linebacker Juwan Simpson said they have to prepare for the team that exploded in the fourth quarter, knowing what Reilly and that potent Eskimo offence is capable of.
“From their side, they’re going to think the fourth quarter, that’s what their team reflects and I think they’re a much better team than a 1-7, 1-8 record,” Simpson told Stampeders.com following Monday’s win.
|The last time they met|
Monday, September 2, 2013
Calgary 37, Edmonton 34
Maurice Price had a day to remember and the Calgary defence held off a furious Edmonton comeback as the Stampeders took the Labour Day Classic over the Eskimos 37-34 last Monday at McMahon Stadium.
In a game where his team committed 11 penalties and also lost three fumbles, Simpson added that it wasn’t a pretty win – yet a win on Labour Day is as big as they come.
“It was kind of sloppy at the end, but it was a tough game, it was a physical game and we knew they were going to be a great fourth-quarter team, I think they’re the best fourth-quarter team in the league numbers wise and they didn’t disappoint, they took it down to the wire,” said Simpson.
“But it’s the Labour Day Classic, it’s a great rivalry and it was a great game.”
Simpson of course also had to give credit to his own team, especially after overcoming a first-half injury to Kevin Glenn and ultimately making the timely stop on defence with the game on the line on Edmonton’s final possession.
“We did get the last stop,” Simpson smiled. “Being a defensive guy, that’s what you want, you want to be out there in the nitty gritty time.”
“I feel like we’re a good team, I’m not taking anything away from us,” he continued. “We fought hard for three and a half quarters, if we could just put it together for four quarters it wouldn’t even be a game.”
“I’m sure it’ll be a much closer game throughout the game on Friday, they always bounce back well. We’re ready for it, we’ve just got to get prepared.”
Friday’s rematch will mark Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel’s 100th career game on the sidelines, making him just the 27th head coach to do that. Among those coaches, he will have the fourth best winning percentage for coaches in their first 100 games, with a record of 66-32-1 heading in.
“He understands what motivates players,” running back Jon Cornish, the reigning Most Outstanding Canadian, told the team’s official website of Hufnagel. “And he understands what it takes to create a winning football team. He’s put that together here, plain and simple.”
With just four losses now in their last 19 regular season games since last year’s Labour Day affair, Hufnagel’s Stamps are currently the league’s hottest team, and will look to continue that hot streak on the road on Friday.
Kickoff is at 9:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Esks.com/Stampeders.com