A feel-good win for Esks

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray throws against the Toronto Argonauts during their CFL...

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray throws against the Toronto Argonauts during their CFL football game at Moncton Stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick September 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Paul Darrow)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:05 PM ET

MONCTON, N.B. — Too bad there wasn’t a trophy.

The Edmonton Eskimos were so tired of losing, when they won Touchdown Atlantic 24-6 over the Toronto Argos here Sunday they probably would have carried it around the field after the game.

They’d probably have drank out of it in their extraordinarily happy dressing room. They’d likely have posed for pictures with it on their long flight home.

The win didn’t dig themselves out of last place in the Western Conference or do much for the overall appearance of what is now a 3-9 season. But ...

“We’d dug a pretty good hole for ourselves but today we finally threw dirt in it.” said head coach Richie Hall who lived to coach yet another weekend with the win.

Maybe the 11-day road trip did what Hall had hoped — bring them together, bonded them and made them the team they failed to be for him through the first 11 games of the season.

“I’m really happy for the guys. I think we really did develop something this week. I think we became closer and bonded,” said Hall.

“It was a terrific effort today,” said new general manager Eric Tillman, who parachuted in for the game after early reports he’d be staying away so as not to take the focus off the event.

“This team played with emotion. The defence played physical football and created turnovers. And we handled adversity well. There was mental toughness there, too. The men came to play today.

“This was an easy event in which to get distracted. We needed this. It gives our fans some hope,” said Tillman.

Maybe there wasn’t a trophy but it felt like there should have been one for Hall.

“Being able to play in a first-ever game like this was great. Winning it was even better. We’ll always be able to say we won the first one.”

Maybe it was the fact they were having some success, but you could visibly see players playing off each other, relishing the successes of their teammates, bouncing around with enthusiasm and playing with passion long before the result was no longer in doubt.

“That’s the first time we’ve done that in a while,” said offensive lineman Aaron Fiacconi.

“Hopefully we can do this for the rest of the year,” he said of actually looking like a team.

Dario Romero, who would have been described as bouncing off walls if there were walls, said there definitely was a mood and an attitude they somehow discovered for this game.

“It was like we had a mind set,” he said.

“When we made plays there was a real domino effect,” said Hall.

Maybe it was just that they were finally through the Calgary-Saskatchewan-Calgary-Calgary-Montreal killer run in their schedule.

Maybe the team which was minus-24 in the takeaway/giveaway category after two early turnovers, finally had some fortune owed them.

Matching a team-high six interceptions from a game in the 2000 season, the Eskimos put up the second-highest interception return yardage total in CFL history, 247 yards, second only to the 291 Saskatchewan put together in a game against Calgary in 1972.

It was the team’s first win of the season on the road, their first win against an Eastern Conference club and the first game in the last four which they didn’t use all three quarterbacks as Ricky Ray went start to finish 21-for-27 for 188 yards passing.

“We left some series out there but the defence didn’t let our mistakes hurt us,” said the quarterback who pulled into 11th place on the all-time CFL passing yards chart.

While Calvin McCarty was perhaps most worthy of the game ball with three touchdowns, two of which were allowed to count, there were no lack of players who stood up and answered the bell. That included the entire offensive line, outstanding efforts by Greg Peach and the entire defence with Elliot Richardson making two of the interceptions, while Chris Thompson, T.J. Hill, Jason Goss and Rod Davis getting the others.

“Edmonton was very well prepared and stellar on defence,” said Argos’ head coach Jim Barker.

“They deserved the win. With the long trip they were on, they had more right to be tired than we did. This was a great thing for the CFL and we didn’t hold up our end.”

I’m not sure these two teams gave Atlantic Canada the best example of CFL football at its best. But it’s the best the Eskimos felt about a win all year.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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