Esks owned the ball

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

The Esks of the East just became the story of the season.

These crossover kids are headed to Montreal as first-time beasts of the East to again try to be the Montreal Alouettes worst nightmare.

After back-to-back years of missing the playoffs, ending a North American pro sports record of 34 straight seasons, Edmonton became the first crossover team to win a CFL playoff game.

Even if after 38 trips to the West Final, this didn't feel like an Eastern anything.

"We wanted to be the first ones to do it," said quarterback Ricky Ray, who has led the Eskimos to the Grey Cup every year they've made the playoffs.

Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry said any analysis starts with Ray.

"He had a big day today. He had a big completion percentage and threw for over 300 yards," said Berry. Ray was 27 for 37 for 303 yards.

But the most important statistic of the game may have been the time of possession stats -- 35:33 to 24:27 for Edmonton.

This team didn't lead the league in a lot of stats this season, but they did in that one and beat the Bombers with it, keeping the Bombers defence on the field most of day and leaving the offence to shiver on the sidelines.

And the much maligned can't-stop-the-run defence stopped the run when it mattered most.

There were a few points in the game when it looked like it might not happen for the Eskimos and when Jason Armstead returned a punt 93 yards for a major, that looked like it could be the turning point.

SEE IT COMING

But no sooner had the Bombers taken a 15-10 lead on the play than defensive end Fred Perry blocked a pass and tipped to himself and carried 31 yards to the end zone.

The Bombers never led again.

In a way, you could see this coming.

The Eskimos needed a win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders two weeks ago to "avoid" having to come to Winnipeg for the East semifinal. They lost 55-9.

But with East teams winning four of 33 games against the West, the Eastern Conference looked like an easier route to get to the Grey Cup.

Now the Riders are gone -- 33-12 losers to the B.C. Lions in the West Final, and the Eskimos kept alive the possibilty of an Edmonton-Calgary Grey Cup game in Montreal.

"It seems like we're always playing the Als with the Grey Cup on the line," Esks head coach Danny Maciocca said. "In my time in Edmonton, as an assistant and a head coach, we've played the Als in three Grey Cups. Now we have to play them again to get to the Grey Cup."

The Als have made it to 14 Grey Cup games and 11 have been against Edmonton. The Esks won eight of those 11.

And there's a long, horrid history of Grey Cup hosts losing the final and giving up their dressing room for the Grey Cup game to the team that beat them.

Go East young men. This could be a great story.


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