November 3, 2008
Gettin' his kicks inVeteran Prefontaine draws back into lineup for CFL East semi
By JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA
The Edmonton Eskimos' most experienced playoff player will return this week.
Kicker Noel Prefontaine - who has a team-high 13 CFL post-season games under his belt - will play Saturday in Winnipeg in the East Division playoff semifinal game.
Prefontaine missed the final regular-season game last Friday with an illness and looked rather rough in a quiet corner of the locker-room late that evening.
"I put make-up on and everything, I thought I looked good," he cracked yesterday morning.
The 11-year CFL veteran has been the Esks most important player acquisition this year - acquired from Toronto just a couple of days before training camp.
Finishing the regular season with a 76% success rate on field goals and a 46.9-yard average on punts, he replaced retired Sean Fleming with ease.
In fact, Fleming had a 68% field-goal success mark last year coupled with a 43.7-yard punting average - though he was asked to do plenty of directional punting last year.
But the post-season is what matters - and Prefontaine believes he has a field-goal percentage near 75 in the playoffs, which would be slightly higher than Fleming's 71.6 mark.
"My best (playoff) game ever was the semifinal against Hamilton (in 2004)," said Prefontaine, referring to the year he won his only Grey Cup.
"I think I ended up averaging 53 (yards on punts), I was three for four on field goals - a couple of them were outside 45.
"I may have thrown in a tackle.
"It was really one of my more complete games. I think I was awarded the Walby Warrior for that particular game."
Prefontaine didn't participate in the final two practice sessions last week due to flu-like symptoms.
Rookie Derek Schiavone handled the kicking chores during last Friday's win against Montreal, but was in his first ever CFL regular-season game.
Having Prefontaine return to the Eskimos lineup this week will be a major boost with his playoff experience.
"You have to understand that any play is going to make or break the game," he commented.
"It could be you involved on that particular play.
"It is very important that you take every play for itself. And you play every play as hard as you can."
Spending the previous 10 years of his CFL career with Toronto, Prefontaine notices a difference within the Eskimo locker-room right now.
"It is (a) totally different feeling than what I had in Toronto," he said.
"The last five or six years in Toronto we were a certain type of football team where you took the entire regular season and you went into the (playoff) game with that feeling of this is what we are good at, this is what we are not good at and let's hope that what we are not good at doesn't affect us like it did in the regular season.
"This feeling that I have in this (Edmonton) locker-room is totally different. I don't have the sense that we are going to go out there and not score points - that is one of our strong points."