Eskimos on cloud nine

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:45 AM ET

It might have been the most exciting preseason game you’ve never seen.

Unless you were one of the 24,763 in attendance at Vancouver’s Empire Field on Sunday, you didn’t see the Edmonton Eskimos squander a 24-10 halftime lead, forcing them to rely on some dying-second heroics.

With just 11 tics left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Eskimos quarterback Jason Maas threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Skyler Green to win 36-32.

“Too bad it wasn’t a TV game,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall. “What I told the guys is it’s not over until it’s over.”

While comebacks and lead changes come and go, it was the previous set of downs that made this game’s ending unique.

The Esks ended up kicking and gambling on the same play. Facing a third-and-five situation with 55 seconds left, Derek Schiavone kicked a 42-yard field goal to tie the game 32-32. But an offside call against Lions backup nickelback Anthony Reddick gave the Esks another chance.

Giving up the three points in favour of the five-yard penalty set the Eskimos up at third-and-inches before Maas dove into the pile for a first down at the Lions 29.

An incomplete pass to Green might have led to some second thoughts along the Esks sideline, but Maas made good going back to the same receiver on his next attempt.

The winning drive covered 79 yards on 10 plays and took exactly two minutes of clock-managing perfection.

“This is why we practise situations, because when it occurred it wasn’t a big deal,” said Hall. “It’s a two-minute drill, we’re down by three, we’ve got to move the ball. We got it into field-goal range, they gave us another opportunity and we capitalized on it.”

It was a roller-coaster end for Maas, who fumbled the ball on the Esks previous possession after Reddick sacked him for a six-yard loss.

The turnover led to a Lions touchdown as backup quarterback Travis Lulay hit wide receiver Terence Scott on a 26-yard pass into the end zone to take a 32-29 lead with 2:21 left to play.

“You never want to turn the ball over and let it lead to points,” Maas said. “That’s what ended up happening.

“It was just nice resilience on our offence to take the ball down there and kick a game-tying field goal and take the ball right back and then score a touchdown.”

Maas said he was a little surprised at how open the Lions allowed Green to get.

“I think they messed the coverage up, the young guys out there for them,” Maas said.

“It was just nice to see him in behind everybody and just throw it up there and (he) made a good catch.

“Your goal every game is to win it, whether it’s exhibition or not. It’s a good momentum-builder for us.”

Especially since the two teams will rematch on July 4 in their regular-season opener at Commonwealth Stadium.

“We play these guys in two weeks and I know it’s going to be quite a different lineup. Still, you try to beat the guys that are in there,” Maas said. “They come to our place next and it’s hopefully the same result for us.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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