EDMONTON -- Edmonton Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed is looking for a launching point and he hopes that Friday’s overtime win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was exactly that.
Facing a significant deficit in what was a hugely important contest for a team looking to sneak their way into the playoffs, the Eskimos staged a second half comeback that was capped off by a nine-yard touchdown scamper by Hugh Charles.
A pair wins and a very real opportunity to cross over into the East Division playoffs and their is renewed optimism in Edmonton.
“Exceptionally proud of this football team with the character that they have displayed this year”, Reed said when the team returned to Edmonton. “(Friday) was just a micro-cosmic look at how we have played all year in terms of the resiliency we have displayed. The guys on the sidelines, there were never any panic or any doubt that we were going to have an opportunity to win that football game and that confidence comes from the fact that they have worked very smartly in practice, during film session to put themselves in a position – extremely proud of our players and coaches.”
Perhaps the biggest key to the Eskimos’ success has been the steady growth of quarterback Mike Reilly not only as a performer but a leader as well.
Reilly currently sits second in the league in passing – just behind Hamilton’s Henry Burris – with 3,085 yards and has shown both poise and resiliency in the pocket.
His play has gone so far as to have many, including CFL.ca’s Dave Campbell, believing that he is indeed the quarterback of the present and future in Edmonton.
Steady play behind centre has been something that Reed not only credits to Reilly but to his coaching staff in their most recent win.
“We modified our game plan because we knew Winnipeg would smartly adjust and they did a brilliant job of adjusting to Mike with their line schemes”, the Esks sideline boss said. “That’s something I thought our coaching staff smartly anticipated. We were very pleased that our short passing game was very effective because we equated that to our run game being able to throw the ball short and make plays that way.”
As for the Eskimos’ running game, it on the other hand, has not been as consistent as the quarterback play.
An injury-riddled 2013 campaign for Charles has led to a drop-off in production after a career-year last season. His emergence in the late-stages of Friday’s contest was something that Reed said “personified what this football team is about, resiliency, character and heart.”
“(Charles) wasn’t 100% that was the obvious but the way he focused on not the injury and not the embattlement that he had to go through regarding the injury,” he continued. “He focused on just doing the little things right. The turnover he had I would put 5 other running backs in the same position and would probably have the same turnover. I would never expect a guy from that position and that angle to make that play.”
Perhaps the biggest test of the season awaits Charles and the Eskimos this week. The defending Grey Cup Champions make their only visit to Commonwelath on Saturday and enter as the league’s hottest team after knocking off Montreal, Saskatchewan and Calgary all on the road. And they are doing so without their starting quarterback, running back and go-to receiver and kick returner.
“The next step is preparing smartly for Toronto, a very tough football team and making certain we are doing the little things and our same mantra continues to be accentuated,” Reed continued. “We want to be focused on the details; we didn’t do a lot of things well last night, obviously because we had to dig ourselves out of a hole. We have to make certain that details are paramount, adjust those, get better every week and see where it goes.”
- With files from Esks.com