Good show by Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

With a never-say-die attitude on the most critical drive of the season, the Edmonton Eskimos pushed the ball into the end zone and themselves into the playoffs for the 34th consecutive year.

But the playoff picture is anything but clear for the Green and Gold after beating Saskatchewan by just one point yesterday.

In fact, the playoff possibilities in the CFL West Division are a mathematician's delight.

The Eskimos can finish anywhere from first to fourth, meaning the club can host the West final or semifinal - or travel in their own division or cross-over to the East Division.

However, the club is guaranteed an invitation to the post-season dance - unlike the Roughriders, after beating Saskatchewan 19-18 in front of 53,216 at Commonwealth Stadium.

"The guys (in this locker-room) fought in a game where most teams would quit," said Esks receiver Ed Hervey. "You get a few penalties here and you're stalling on offence - it's easy for guys to pull the chute.

"But this group believes."

The Eskimos drove the ball up and down the field yesterday but repeatedly failed to find the end zone through three quarters, settling for four Sean Fleming field goals.

Trailing 18-12 with nearly eight minutes left in the fourth quarter - thanks largely to a touchdown sneak by Rider QB Marcus Crandell and a thrilling 87-yard punt-return major by Corey Holmes - the Eskimos scrimmaged at their own 37-yard line.

And just as in Toronto on Thanksgiving Day, Troy Davis went to work.

"In the fourth quarter I believe Danny just kept saying get the ball to Troy and move it down the field," explained Davis, who finished with 96 rushing yards.

His final run on the drive took the ball to the one-yard line, but quarterback Ricky Ray couldn't push it over the goal line on second down, leaving the Eskimos in a third-down gamble.

But Ray didn't fail again, just scraping his neck over the line on second effort giving the club a 19-18 lead.

The drama didn't end, though, as the teams traded possessions again leaving head coach Danny Maciocia in a precarious position with 28 seconds remaining: Punt or attempt a field goal from the 45-yard line?

A two-point win would have clinched at least third for the Eskimos and eliminated Saskatchewan from second place. There was plenty at stake.

Maciocia chose to punt, asking Fleming to put it out of bounds deep in Rider territory.

"If you punt it into the end zone, you get a single and they scrimmage from the 35 ... and 28 seconds is an eternity," said Maciocia.

Fleming failed with Saskatchewan returning the ball to the 34-yard line - and with just a few ticks on the clock, a pass interference penalty gave the Riders one last chance.

But Paul McCallum missed his field goal attempt from 52 yards, with Jason Tucker running the ball out of the end zone to secure the win.


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