Streak turns into a freak

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Thirty-three. The hard way.

"I didn't sleep at all last night. I tossed and I turned," said Ed Hervey.

"It's the first time since college I've been like that before a game. I felt more pressure on this game than I felt for any playoff game or any Grey Cup game."

Hervey caught eight passes for 103 yards to become head hero in leading the Edmonton Eskimos to a 40-34 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and make it into the playoffs for a North American pro sports record 33rd consecutive season.

"It would have hurt me if we'd failed today. The Streak means a lot to Edmonton and it means a lot to me. The last thing I ever wanted was to have my name attached to the team that ended The Streak."

The Eskimos now focus on Saskatchewan Saturday in Vancouver. A Roughrider win and the West semifinal will be in Regina. If the Riders lose, it will be held here.

"Whether that game is here or over in Saskatchewan, there will be less pressure," said quarterback Jason Maas.

"That sounds funny to say that there could be less pressure for a playoff game, but I think that will turn out to be the truth."

In keeping The Streak alive, these Eskimos came clean about what an albatross it had became for them during this soiled but not spoiled 9-9 season.

This Streak, more than anybody, belongs to Hugh Campbell, who was head coach for six seasons and has been head of the organization for another 18.

"I've never missed the playoffs as a player, a coach, or in this position, but didn't want this team to miss the playoffs this year for an entirely different reason than The Streak," said Campbell, the team's president and CEO.

"If we were the fourth-best team in the West, fine. It has to end someday. But I still believe this team has enough weapons to be able to win three more games. A high-calibre team not making the playoffs would have been the disappointment more than just not making the playoffs."

Offensive co-ordinator Dann Maciocia said it'll be a different environment going into the playoffs now that they survived this.

FILE NO. 13

"The first season is over and we can file it in file No. 13," he said of the dismal regular season, which featured a three-game losing streak out of the gate as defending Grey Cup champions belonging in the garbage can.

The first film in file 13 will be the first half by the defence from this game.

"We were embarrassed the way we played the first half," said defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall. "In the first half we had a lot of guys who played tight. We didn't make any plays until the second half."

The big play was a blocked punt midway through the fourth quarter by Jabari Issa which set the Eskimos up on the Winnipeg eight-yard line. Hands anyone? Who knew that somebody by the name of Jabari Issa played for the Eskimos?

"It was the biggest play in my CFL career at the time we needed it most," he said.

All's well that ends well. Well, not all was well.

There is no 'i' in team, but in this game it became something of a shock - considering his history - to discover there to be an 'i' in Pringle.

It was the third quarter and the Eskimos were on the one-yard line. Maas called his own number. Zero yards. Winnipeg was given a penalty for too many men on the field. On the next first down, Maas called his own number again. Zero yards again. On second down, the quarterback called his number for a third time. This time it was a touchdown.

Pringle stomped off the field. Then he threw a body-language, hissy-fit tantrum at the bench, kicking the ground and carrying on like a spoiled brat in full view of TV cameras. Later he turned away from Maciocia when the coach made the long walk to Pringle's secluded location to explain the philosophy (why give the ball to a guy starting the play on the five-yard line when the guy starting on the one has to take one step to get into the end zone.)

Pringle needed one touchdown to break George Reed's record. And judging from his lack of success lately, you have to wonder if he was thinking that was his last shot at it, that he's likely soon to be told it's time to call it a career.

Maybe he felt not trusting your north-south power running back to get you one yard, was telling everyone that right then and there.

DIDN'T LOOK GOOD ON MIKE

That Pringle needed three teammates to keep him from going after a reporter who was in his face on the subject after the game made it even worse. The whole thing didn't look good on the future Hall of Famer who has been so celebrated here this year, breaking and equalling Reed's records.

The real shame is Pringle's antics took some of the focus off the teammates who got the job done. Like Maas.

"Jason kept his composure," said Maciocia. "The players saw his confidence broken the week before, but they didn't see his confidence broken in this game."

Maas, who said "this whole year hasn't been easy" added it was the kind of game where there were no options. You had to come through.

"That's as nervous as I've been all year. I just trusted the plays that were being called and the guys to make the plays.

"It feels good," said Maas.

Probably not as good as it felt for Tom Higgins, who lived to head coach again another season.


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