There's still life in the Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

Don't put a fork in the Edmonton Eskimos quite yet.

In the most critical game of the season to date for the defending Grey Cup champions, the Green and Gold showed some signs of life last night by pulling out a last-drive victory over the Calgary Stampeders in front of 47,965 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Appearing to be boiled and cooked with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Ricky Ray led the Eskimos nearly 90 yards - using his feet to scramble and his arm to spread the field - to the three-yard line with six seconds remaining.

'WORKED TO PERFECTION'

Trailing 26-22, Ray needed one play to give his team a boost in confidence and possibly save them from a disastrous season.

The pivot found all-star slotback Jason Tucker on a corner route to the pylon of the north end zone to score the biggest touchdown of the year for the Green and Gold.

"It is something we run all year and it worked to perfection," said Tucker.

Added receiver Trevor Gaylor: "Ricky is the best ever.

"When he made those first two scrambles (in the drive) he made me believe, I thought - here we go."

The win pulls Edmonton to within four points of Saskatchewan for the final West Division playoff berth and to three points from the East Division crossover berth.

"We felt that we were going to go out there and physically take it to Calgary because we knew that was the one game they didn't want to play," said Ed Hervey.

"This victory is huge for this locker-room and huge for our confidence."

But last night, that desperation drive also erased what had the makings of another heartbreaking loss.

Edmonton spoiled a 16-0 second quarter lead last night by giving up two safeties and a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by CFL special teams player of the week J.R. Ruffin before the first half ended.

Heading into the intermission with a 16-11 lead, it should have been a 30-11 advantage, but the offence stalled twice inside the 10-yard line, leading to chip shot Sean Fleming field goals.

The disappointing end to the half also put a damper on an outstanding opening 30 minutes by the defence, which scored a touchdown on a Charles Alston fumble recovery and held Joffrey Reynolds - the CFL's leading rusher - to zero yards rushing on three attempts.

"He's a good back and if he's out there running around (in the first half) we're in trouble," said defensive end Chuck Alston.

A fourth Fleming field goal made it 19-11 early in the third quarter, but the game turned in the Stamps' favour 15 minutes later.

BAG OF TRICKS

After a Nik Lewis touchdown to come within in one point, the Stamps pulled yet another gadget play out of the bag of special teams tricks.

Lining up to punt from near midfield, a direct snap to Brian Clark led to a pass to a streaking punter Burke Dales.

Providing a first down, the Stamps parlayed that play into a nine-yard TD strike to Elijah Thurmon to make it 25-19.

But that was before the heroics that have so often been played out against the Eskimos this year.

And to add an exclamation point to it all, Adam Braidwood returned a fumble for a touchdown with no time left on the clock to make the final 35-26.


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