Big return sets the tone

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:17 AM ET

EDMONTON — Special teams not only set the pace of the preseason opener, but kept it up all game.

Although the Edmonton Eskimos were edged 23-21 by the Calgary Stampeders Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium, the third-down unit gave the offence and defence plenty of chances to put it away.

It started with a 49-yard punt return by Skyler Green that eclipsed a 44-yard punt by rookie Rob Maver that echoed of a kick return touchdown in last year’s West Division semifinal against the Stampeders.

“That’s a good return right off the bat, wasn’t it?” said Eskimos assistant head coach and special teams co-ordinator Noel Thorpe. “That’s kind of how we left off last year with Skyler, he picked up where he left off and starts it out with a big return that really set the tone with field position for us.

“It is Skyler, but it is also those 11 guys who were up there blocking for him.”

Second-string kicker Derek Schiavone punted the lights out with a trio of coffin corners, netting an average of 44.8 yards on five attempts to edge Maver’s 44.7-yard average on four punts.

“Shivs comfortable now,” Thorpe said. “It’s his third year, he’s not nervous like he was maybe the past couple seasons. For him, this is about getting his stroke back, getting his timing. It means something because it’s live now.”

After Tristan Jackson went down with an undetermined injury after returning a kick for 22 yards, rookie defensive back Weldon Brown stepped in to return five kicks for 136 yards.

“Weldon did a tremendous job on kickoff returns,” Thorpe said. “This is a guy that is a fearless competitor. We asked him to get vertical up field and he did that.

IN AND OUT: Starting centre Aaron Fiacconi left in the first quarter and did not return. His injury was unknown as of press time.

Gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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