Call them the Edmonton Spoilers, because that's what the Eskimos did to the B.C. Lions in 2005.
"They definitely spoiled our season, especially in the Western final," said Lions' defensive end Brent Johnson. "We've not had a lot of success when we've gone to Edmonton, we have won some games there, mostly they've been close, tight games."
The 2-1 Lions visit the 1-2 Eskimos tonight at Commonwealth Stadium in the first of three tilts in six weeks. Eskimos travel to B.C. Place Stadium on Aug. 4 and 18.
Edmonton stopped the Lions' winning streak at 11 games when it handed B.C. a 37-20 defeat on Sept. 24, 2005 in the Alberta capital. Lions never held a lead. An 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tony Tompkins at 6:40 of the fourth quarter quashed any hopes of a comeback. The loss kicked off a 1-6 slump that included another loss at Commonwealth Oct. 28. This time it was by the foot of veteran kicker Sean Fleming. The "booter from Burnaby" had five field goals, including the deciding three-pointer with no time left on the clock, for the 22-19 Edmonton victory.
Next time the teams clashed was Nov. 20 in the Western final at B.C. Place. Eskimos wrecked the Lions' Party on the Pacific with a 28-23 result highlighted by Eskimo backup quarterback Jason Maas' 15-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Gaylor. Lions' head coach Wally Buono made the controversial call to start Dave Dickenson and end with Casey Printers.
A week later at B.C. Place, starter Ricky Ray led the Eskimos to a thrilling Grey Cup overtime win over the Montreal Alouettes. Ray remains, but Maas became the Hamilton Tiger-Cats top pivot in the off-season.
"There were some times last year where we got to Ricky Ray and he was struggling and they found a way to put in Jason Maas," Johnson said. "If they didn't have that option, maybe it would've been a different year."
Lions can't forget last year's losses, but also can't focus on them. The Eskimos will enter tonight's game in the wake of a 46-10 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last Saturday in the Manitoba capital.
"We know that they're going to play physical, they always do," said B.C. receiver Geroy Simon. "They didn't play so well last week, that'll give them incentive to come out and play us even harder."
Eskimos' veteran sack specialist Joe Montford returns to the lineup, certain to test Dickenson. Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia cut the defensive end after training camp, but he was inked to a new deal on Monday. The three-time most outstanding defensive player in the CFL had 10 sacks, 27 tackles and four forced fumbles in 18 games last season.
"He's still a quality player, he's been an all-star and probably one of the best rush ends in the league," Simon said. "For them to cut him and no one to pick him up, that's the surprising thing, he's still a great player and can make things happen."