Two down, Eks’ O-line a go

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

Down two bodies, any offensive line would likely be forced to go on the defensive.

But the Edmonton Eskimos held strong last week, despite missing starting left guard Kyle Koch and left tackle Jeremy Parquet.

While Koch has since returned to practice, Parquet’s knee injury will require his replacement, Patrick Afif, to be back in the lineup after starting his first game with the Eskimos last week.

“I had a blast out there. It’s just kind of like riding a bike: you get back on and you start to remember where the pedals are and, next thing you know, you’re playing a game,” said Afif, who was a late cut in training camp this year.

Together with veteran guard Kelly Bates, the left side held despite coming up against a pair of defensive ends in Phillip Hunt and Odell Willis, who sit among the top three CFL sack leaders.

“They were good D-ends, they had some moves,” Afif said. “They were kind of what I like to call cagier ends, where they try and juke you out. You’ve just got to stay ahead of them.”

While the Eskimos O-line wasn’t able to keep quarterback Jared Zabransky’s uniform completely clean, they allowed just three sacks against the defence that leads the league with 50.

“It was a positive for me,” said Afif. “I think I might have had one of those. I might have got marked down for somebody else. It wasn’t even that I got beat, it was just a miscommunication between me and the guard and that’s what happens when you get off a plane four days before the game. Other than that, I feel pretty good.”

As did the rest of the front five.

“They held their own, they fought,” centre Aaron Fiacconi said of the left side. “It’s always going to take some time getting used to. (Winnipeg has) an awesome defensive line, probably the best I’ve seen this year.

“We made the plays when it counted down the stretch and as an offensive line we’re starting to come together. Even with some new faces in there, we still made enough plays to win.”

Fiacconi attributes the Eskimos’ ability to make nearly seamless substitutions along the offensive line to preparation and attitude.

“We had 250 yards rushing, so that’s outstanding,” he said. “For us to lose two of our regulars, to have two guys come in and fill in and do a great job like that, it’s hats off to them.”

That’s not to say Fiacconi won’t be happy to have Koch return from injury to resume his place in the lineup this week.

“We missed him last game. Kelly did a good job but (Kyle) is my buddy, man,” Fiacconi said. “We’ve been playing side by side the last two years and we do everything together. We’re attached at the hip and I feel like I’m missing my left arm out there.”

The Eskimos will close out the regular season with Afif protecting the blind side.

“Pat’s done a good job for us,” Fiacconi said. “Being released out of camp and coming back, it didn’t seem like he missed a stride. He played some decent football down south in the arena league and it’s carrying over.

“We need to have him continue that for us down the stretch here.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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