Once an Eskimo

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

HAMILTON -- The irony is amazing.

Ron Lancaster -- the winningest head coach in Edmonton Eskimo history -- could play a major role in ending the Green and Gold's incredible playoff streak.

Now the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Lancaster will face his old team in back-to-back games starting tomorrow night in this city.

With the 4-7 Eskimos now four points out of a playoff spot, a split or sweep by the Tabbies could ruin Edmonton's remarkable run of being in the playoffs for 34 consecutive years.

"I don't think the people in Edmonton realize that no streak lasts forever. Period," said the Tabbie bench boss while standing on the field turf at Ivor Wynne Stadium yesterday afternoon.

"But to go that many years (making the playoffs) is kind of unheard of. I know they don't want to end it, but we are going to do everything we can to try and do that."

If that isn't enough irony for you, how about the fact Kavis Reed -- who played five years in Edmonton -- is Hamilton's defensive co-ordinator?

Reed has been studying all week to shut down Ricky Ray.

But the main character in this delightful true tale is Lancaster, who is well aware of the irony at several different levels.

"My son is out there," said Lancaster, referring to R.D. Lancaster being an offensive coach under Danny Maciocia.

"And Hugh (Campbell, Eskimo CEO) is probably one of the best friends I have in the world.

"But you know what, the nature of the game is that if we don't (play to win) they wouldn't have a whole lot of respect for us."

Lancaster coached for seven years in Edmonton (1991-97) and recorded 83 wins, putting him 13 victories ahead of Campbell.

The Little General also led the Esks to a Grey Cup title in 1993.

But it's a much different story with Hamilton this season.

On paper, the woeful Tabbies look like easy prey with the worst record in the CFL at 2-11.

But this is the same team that beat the Calgary Stampeders in July and held Toronto to just 11 points last weekend.

And Reed has been hammering one simple point into his defenders this week: "Trust what you see ... (Edmonton) is loaded with talent ...but if you trust what you see, you can make plays against them.

"Don't be awestruck by the fact they won the Grey Cup last year and they have Jason Tucker, Derrell Mitchell and Ricky Ray."

But Reed admits he is still struck by the plight of his former team this year.

"It is one of those things that for the first time in my coaching career -- five years -- you are playing the Edmonton Eskimos and they are trying to survive," remarked Reed, who played at Commonwealth Stadium from 1995-99.

"I thought I would never be able to say those words."

A former all-star defensive back, Reed still shares the Eskimo record for most interceptions returns (five) for touchdowns.

And he admits it's going to be weird looking at his old team tomorrow as they fight for their playoff life.

"You remember the sight and smell of the locker room (at Commonwealth)," he explained yesterday.

"You remember the camaraderie in the locker room.

"It is true: Once an Eskimo, Always an Eskimo. It is probably the best place to play football in the CFL."

But for the next two weeks, Lancaster and Reed want to make their old home an unbearable pressure cooker with two huge Hamilton wins.


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