Last-second thriller

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

The Sean Fleming story has turned from a frustrating saga into an impressive comeback tale at a critical time for the Edmonton Eskimos.

In fact, the Eskimos are riding Fleming's red-hot right foot into a thrilling final week of the CFL season that will decide first place in the West Division.

With just one second on the clock last night, Fleming nailed his fifth field goal of the game to give the Eskimos a 22-19 victory over the B.C. Lions at Commonwealth Stadium, leaving Edmonton two points behind in the battle for home-field advantage in the West final.

UPSET WITH COACH

"He actually got upset at me in the second quarter when the ball was on the 40-yard line and I elected to punt and, at that point I knew there was no way (Fleming) was going to miss one tonight," said head coach Danny Maciocia after 37,544 spectators left the stadium.

"With that little swagger he had all day long, I was ready to kick a 52-or 53-yarder (to end the game)."

The ball was actually placed on the 36-yard line on the winning play.

The victory means Edmonton is undefeated in three games and can grab first place if B.C. loses next Saturday at home against Saskatchewan and the Eskimos win Sunday in Calgary.

That scenario would leave the teams tied at 12-6, but Edmonton would get the advantage based on two wins in three games against the Leos.

The first victory came two months ago, which also marked Fleming's return after watching Hayden Epstein take his job for four games.

Fleming had been anything but reliable early in the season, with a 58% success rate, bringing the benching from Maciocia.

But the coach turned to Fleming when Epstein went down the same unsuccessful path.

And it proved to be a brilliant move.

Fleming is perfect on his last 10 attempts and has been the difference-maker in the club's last two wins.

"It was nice to have a game winner," said Fleming, issuing the understatement of the night.

"And tonight, with the death of a close friend to the Eskimo organization, I think a lot of guys had that on their mind and certainly my performance is dedicated to her."

Pam Monastyrskyj - a longtime executive assistant to CEO Hugh Campbell - died yesterday morning after a courageous battle with cancer.

In a classy move, Maciocia is giving the game ball that sailed through the uprights on the final play of the game to her husband.

HERO ON GRASS

But Fleming was the hero on the grass last night.

It could have easily been B.C. kicker Mark McLoughlin, who nailed four field goals, but the Lions made too many mistakes, losing for the fifth time in six games.

"We didn't play smart and took too many penalties," said Lions head coach Wally Buono.

The first half was marred with turnovers and costly penalties.

The Eskimos put together the only TD drive, but that was aided by a questionable roughing the passer call against Carl Kidd.

The penalty negated an interception by Ricky Ray and gave the Eskimos new life.

Troy Davis punched the ball in the end zone five plays later for a 10-9 lead.

Another Fleming field goal extended the lead to four at half time - and he played the role of hero 30 minutes later.


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