Foot soldiers

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

While tonight's final regular-season game against Montreal means nothing in the standings to the Edmonton Eskimos, here are five things to watch at Commonwealth Stadium ...

1. DOES A GOOD FOOT SOLDIER GET HIS CHANCE?

Unless Noel Prefontaine suddenly improves from an illness, Derek Schiavone will make his first-ever regular-season appearance as the Esks' kicker and punter this evening.

Prefontaine didn't handle any kicking duties in Wednesday's practice and didn't even appear at yesterday's walk-through practice.

Schiavone impressed the coaching staff from the first day of training camp this year and is the reason why former first-round pick Warren Kean was cut this spring.

Schiavone has participated in every Eskimo practice this year but hasn't dressed for a game since the pre-season.

In the rookie's two exhibition games, the non-import product of Western Ontario had a 51.3-yard punting average (wind aided) and was three-for-four on field goals.

2. DOES THE RUNNING GAME COME TO LIFE?

The Eskimos fly to Winnipeg next week for the Nov. 8 East Division semifinal - and it better have a running game on board.

Either Calvin McCarty or AJ Harris - who will both play tonight - has to step up and take charge.

Harris had a 1.8-yard average in his last start while McCarty has fumbled four times in his three starts in the second half of the year.

But it's more than just getting the tailback position solved.

The short-yardage unit has failed five times in the last three contests.

Four times in Vancouver on Oct. 10 the Esks were stopped on one-yard efforts and last week the team turned the ball over on a third-and-one scenario.

3. DOUBLE THE WS

If the Eskimos win tonight, they will be able to boast about having one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in the win column in the CFL this decade.

After posting a dreadful 5-12-1 record last year, the Esks can get their 10th win this evening against Montreal (7 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium, CHED).

Since the start of the 2000 season, only four teams in the league have improved their regular-season win total by at least five from one year to the next.

Winnipeg posted seven more wins in 2001 compared to 2000.

Hamilton improved by eight wins in 2004 from 2003.

Calgary posted an increase of seven wins in 2005.

And Calgary is already five wins ahead of last year's pace with one more game to go this year.

4. SPECIAL TEAMS MILESTONE?

Rookie Chris Ciezki needs three special teams tackles tonight to set a new Eskimo single-season record for most tackles (26).

Rarely getting any media attention, Ciezki was plucked right off the street this off-season from UBC.

That find is a major credit for the Esks' scouting department.

5. THE STAR WARS HALLOWEEN SHOW

Believe it or not, the 501st Badlands Garrison - a group of Star Wars fans - will be dressed in movie-grade costumes on field level tonight at Commonwealth Stadium.

With the Eskimos known as the Evil Empire, there are bound to be some Storm Troopers and Darth Vader look-alikes on the sidelines to add to the flavour of a rare Halloween tilt.


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