Life is looking better in Eskimoland.
On the heels of head coach Danny Maciocia preaching patience after a lopsided loss to open the pre-season, the Edmonton Eskimos are now showing signs of promise.
Using a balanced offensive attack and capitalizing on two huge plays, the Esks beat the B.C. Lions 18-12 last night at Commonwealth Stadium in the club's final pre-season game.
While Ricky Ray spread the ball around to seven different receivers, he used Jason Tucker to set up a key first-half touchdown in front of an announced crowd of 31,650.
Then Stefan LeFors - looking much more comfortable in his backup pivot role - connected with Trevor Gaylor for a 93-yard pass-run play early in the fourth quarter to set up another touchdown, which salted the game away.
"We are happy with the win," said Gaylor, "but we are definitely not satisfied as far as where we are at offensively.
"We left a couple of opportunities on the field today between penalties and a couple of missed assignments."
Those came in the form of interceptions by Ray: once in the second quarter and then near the goal-line in the third quarter. But the offence gets full marks for actually firing on cue early in the first half, something that was sorely missing last year.
After a Sean Fleming 38-yard field goal midway through the first quarter, Ray engineered a two-play 81-yard touchdown drive.
A 56-yard completion to Tucker set up a 25-yard TD strike to Gaylor, who seemed to catch B.C.'s defence flat footed.
A Fleming safety and a three-yard touchdown pass from Buck Pierce to Alexis Bwenge made it 10-9 at halftime.
LEFORS CEMENTS SPOT
Edmonton took charge in the fourth quarter with LeFors cementing his hold on the No. 2 backup quarterback job.
"Things slowed down a little bit more," said LeFors, who was very ineffective last Friday in Calgary. "It helped to sit back on the sidelines the whole first half and watch Ricky do what he did."
After marching the team for a touchdown - a Tyler Ebell one-yard run - on his first series, he found Fred Stamps for a 56-yard deep connection.
LeFors did throw an ugly interception after the Stamps' reception.
But the defence - playing very solid with many new faces - slammed the door with back-to-back sacks after Baron Miles took the interception in Edmonton territory.
Ray finished the game going 20-30 for 287 yards. But in just one quarter, LeFors went 4-6 for 203 yards.