Esks season hangs in the balance

Edmonton Eskimos running back Calvin McCarty pushes the ball over the line to score a touchdown in...

Edmonton Eskimos running back Calvin McCarty pushes the ball over the line to score a touchdown in the second half of their game against the Toronto Argonauts at Moncton Stadium in Moncton Sunday, Sept. 26. (Paul Darrow, Reuters)

Terry Jones, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 PM ET

EDMONTON - Start the streak. Or end the season.

It is beyond ridiculous that a team with three wins to show for a season could possibly remain in control of its own playoff destiny.

Amazingly, that’s the case with the 3-9 Edmonton Eskimos as they sit a loss away from registering only the 12th losing season in the 62-year history of 13-time Grey Cup champions.

But now they have to win.

Again. And again. And again.

All of a sudden this team which has had four-, three- and two-game losing streaks this season, has to stitch some success together.

“Beating Toronto doesn’t do it” said Richie Hall, the now assured to finish the season as head coach as a result of winning the special coast-to-coast focus game which was Touchdown Atlantic.

“It has created real good morale and atmosphere this week. We were all excited to win that one. But one game doesn’t allow you to turn the corner. Win back-to-back-to-back and then all of a sudden you can see yourself turning the corner.

“There are six games left now. We’re going to have to go 5-1 or 4-2,” said Hall.

Do the math. He’s right.

The expiry date of hanging around, hanging around and hanging around needing only to match wins with the B.C. Lions and then beat them in Vancouver later this month to win the season series and make the playoffs is now.

It’s at 2:30 p.m. Sunday against the Hamilton Tiger Cats at Commonwealth Stadium to be exact.

“It’s our biggest game of the season,” said quarterback Ricky Ray.

With the twisted schedule which sees every team involved in a back-to-back, home-and-home games this weekend and next, it gets complicated,

The B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers are matched up in one of those sets leaving the Eskimos damned no matter who wins. Thus the reality that they absolutely have to win Sunday and likely Friday back in Hamilton just to maintain their current precarious position.

To pretend otherwise would be folly.

And to figure the 6-6 Tiger-Cats to do their usual roll-over-and-play dead deal in losing seven of their last eight here, when this year they have a chance to put themselves in position to get back here Nov. 28, would be equally foolish.

Odds are the Tabbies won’t throw six interceptions like Toronto did last week, either.

“It feels good to have a win and a bit of a feeling of satisfaction that went with it, but we have to keep this going. We can’t win one a month,” said Ray. “If we want anything to happen here we need to keep this going. It really is the most important game of the season for this football team.”

You should know that Eskimos have gone 11 months without winning two in a row.

Indeed, only 10 times in the last five seasons have they won two games in a row. In that same span they’ve had 12 two-game losing streaks, four three-game losing skids, one four-game losing streak and a six-game skein when Ray was injured to end the 2007 season.

You have to go back to the Grey Cup winning year of 2005 to find the last time the Eskimos won three in a row.

As for four in a row, that goes back to mid-season 2004.

There is one precedent for making end of the season magic. The Damon Allen season of 1993 starring Sally Rand and the naked bootleg resulted in the Eskimos winning their last eight games including semifinal, final and Grey Cup.

But best just concentrate on making it two in a row.

For starters that almost certainly has to happen here for the Eskimos to rekindle any of the hope which helped fuel the frenzy which resulted in the Grey Cup game selling out before the first pre-season game was played.

“Not having won two in a row is an extremely dismal statistic,” said offensive lineman Aaron Fiacconi, the only guy in that group having a good season.

“In Moncton we gave ourselves a game we can build on. We had good defence, good special teams and we kept Ricky upright,” he said of giving the quarterback a chance to go to work without worrying about getting creamed on every second play.

“We finally gave ourselves a blueprint. If we follow it, we can win. And if we can win again this week, we can enjoy the feeling we had this week for another week. This is the worst occupation in the world when you’re losing.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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