Esks pull out first win

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

There is now reason to believe in the Edmonton Eskimos.

By snapping its seven game regular-season losing streak with a 34-31 win over the Calgary Stampeders, the Green and Gold and its fan base has renewed hope.

The win last night also relieves a tremendous amount of pressure on head coach Danny Maciocia, who has been under fire from his critics since the club missed the playoffs for a second straight season last fall.

And its all thanks to a stunning touchdown grab with 55 seconds remaining by Jason Tucker - corralling the ball with one hand and then securing it with another after beating two defenders.

The 36-yard play capped a remarkable 84-yard drive in just 36 seconds to erase a three-point Calgary lead.

"A huge win for us. To have the lead all game and lose it at the end, it would have been bad for us. But we kept fighting and we got it done," said Ray.

Added Tucker: "I was just trying to make a play when we needed it. (Ray) was spectacular. He is one of the best in league, if not the best."

The victory moves Edmonton to 1-1 to start the campaign, avoiding the ugly distinction of equalling the second-longest losing streak in franchise history.

The Esks also avoided becoming just the third Green and Gold edition in the last 36 years to start a season at 0-2.

"We needed (the win)," added Tucker, "to get us going on the right track."

Using a quick strike offence - something that was missing last week in Regina - Edmonton opened the scoring on a two-play drive with 4:29 left in the first quarter when Ricky Ray found Kelly Campbell for a 32-yard touchdown.

The Stamps answered on the final play of the opening stanza, when Jeremaine Copeland schooled Keith Williams for a 15-yard major.

Ray needed just three plays on his next drive to give Edmonton a 14-7 lead after he found Campbell for his second major of the night on an eight-yard route.

Two Noel Prefontaine field goals and a single gave Edmonton a 21-7 advantage at half.

The Stamps promptly marched down the field to cut the lead in a half on a Joffrey Reynolds short touchdown run to start the third quarter.

After another Prefontaine single, Ray marched the Esks 74 yards on 10 plays in 5:05 - but the drive stalled on the Calgary three-yard line.

That led to a 10-yard Prefontaine field goal for an 11 point lead.

Calgary's Sandro DeAngelis connected from 24 yards for a field goal with 2:25 left in the third stanza.

And the Stamps appeared to be driving for another scoring drive with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Demetris Summers fumbled the ball inside Edmonton territory.

Williams forced the fumble with Dario Romero jumping on the loose rock.

All Edmonton could muster off the turnover was a Prefontaine single on a missed 34-yard field goal.

The Eskimos new kicker finished three for five on field goals.

Calgary put fear into the Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 32,706 when Brett Ralph scored an easy 65-yard touchdown with five minutes remaining.

Another major by Nik Lewis with 1:38 remaining gave Calgary a four point lead.

But that is when Ray and company answered the bell.


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