Ebell, Acree give Esks hope

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Two stars were born and a football team was reborn.

The Edmonton Eskimos didn't win and they didn't lose, but they wowed their crowd with the most entertaining football game since the Eskimos won the 2005 Grey Cup game in overtime.

This, too, was in overtime. But it ended in a 39-39 tie with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Bomber receiver Milt Stegall made history but with nowhere near the impact he did here last year with his last play 100-yard run to beat the Eskimos in regulation.

TIED THE ALL-TIME RECORD

Stegall tied the all-time CFL touchdown record to put the Bombers in overtime, mind you.

But it was T.J. Acree, Tyler Ebell and Jacques Chapdelaine's new offence that the fans went home talking about.

Acree caught nine passes for 123 yards in his debut as an Eskimo. And that was nothing compared to the game Ebell produced.

The rookie carried 16 times for 132 yards, an average of 8.3 yards per carry and a long of 56 yards - 12 yards more than any gain by any ball carriers all of last year.

And it beat anything you watched here last year despite a defence which, with eight new starters, couldn't get much done, especially on third and long.

Ironically, in the second overtime session after the two teams traded touchdowns, the defence which couldn't stop much all night stopped the Bombers in their tracks. But the offence, which got plenty done, including nine more points than they scored in any game last year, was going great until all they needed in the second overtime were a few yards to kick a single for the win.

"It was a wild one," said coach Danny Maciocia, who clearly couldn't decide if he was happy with everything which happened or not.

"We had the opportunity to make one more play and we didn't. But I thought the offence played well. On defence we just gave up too many big plays.

"It was one of those games."

Maciocia, who watched his club lose two of the last three at home here last year, stated the obvious when it came to Acree and Ebell.

"They are good football players. They were the reason we made the moves we made, moves that were tough to make," he said.

"Those two are going to be playing football here for a long time."

If you were looking for signs that Jacques Chapdelaine and his new offence was going to make a difference for the Eskimos this season, the wait wasn't long.

Edmonton scored 15 points in the first quarter, seven more than in any opening quarter all of last season.

The 22 they put up by the end of the next quarter matched their best half-time total from last season.

What we watched in the final pre-season game against the B.C. Lions was not an illusion in terms of the protection the offensive line provided.

Ricky Ray had all sorts of time as he completed his first 10 passes of the season, missed on a bomb and was 14 for 15 when Ebell dropped a perfectly thrown offering.

HUGE NUMBERS FOR RAY

By the end of the first half, Ray was for 19 for 22 for 274 yards and ended up 33 for 42 (394 yards) with five touchdown passes.

"T.J. has been in this offence with Jacques in B.C. He knew what to do," said Ray of going to the new receiver early and often. Tyler is just a great competitor. It there's a crease there, I know he's going to hit it. That's really important in this league.

"I thought we had a lot of really good things right off the bat."

Ebell had family members watching at Cronies, a bar in his hometown of Ventura, California.

"I'm sure a lot of people there were wondering what the heck all that was," he said of the terrific tilt complete with two overtime periods.

"I was ready to go back on offence when they sounded the gun. I didn't have a clue how it was all going to end."

It's hard to have a clue how this season is going to end, but you have to admit, that was a whale of a game to watch to get it started.


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