Late-season surge not enough for Esks

Edmonton Eskimos' Ricky Ray is helped up by Patrick Kabongo and Greg Wojth after being shaken up...

Edmonton Eskimos' Ricky Ray is helped up by Patrick Kabongo and Greg Wojth after being shaken up against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (REUTERS/Fred Greenslade)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

In the end, the hole proved to be just too deep.

The Edmonton Eskimos made a valiant effort to salvage a season headed in the wrong direction from the onset.

But despite a late-season surge, the club was not able to undo the mistakes made early in the year.

“Our guys have hearts of gold,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall as his club cleaned out their lockers Sunday.

“At one time this season, we were 2-9. And to have it come down to Week 18, and have the opportunity to go to the playoffs, it shows a lot about them, it shows a lot about the character of this locker-room and I’m very proud of them.”

The Eskimos won five of six games to put themselves in a position to qualify for the playoffs heading into their regular-season finale in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.

However the clock eventually struck midnight on their fairytale, losing 31-23.

“I think if we would have gotten in there (the playoffs), we would have had just as much of a chance as any team,” Hall said. “All of sudden, you have that momentum going, you had that belief, and then you had everything to gain and nothing to lose. That’s our whole attitude that we went in with. We were just going to play and at the end of the day we were going to see what the scoreboard says.

“I just thought that if we would have gotten in there, we would have caused some teams some problems and I say that teams, plural, because I think we would have been around for more than just one game.”

The stumble out of the gate proved the Eskimos eventual downfall.

Despite heading into the season believing they had the talent to contend for a championship, the team dropped five of their first six games, which eventually cost general manager Danny Maciocia his job.

“We knew we had the guys to do the job in this locker-room, we just weren’t getting it done out on the field early in the season,” said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. “We had a couple of games that we should have won earlier in the year and we just didn’t make the plays when we needed to make them.

“It kind of snowballed on us and got away from us early in the season. We just started executing a lot better coming down the stretch and were able to start getting things to go our way. We got into a little bit of a run and started playing football the way we should have been all year.”

Generally games at the end of a season are tougher to win than those at the beginning of the year.

The Eskimos did manage to find a way to scrape out victories to keep their heads above water for a time. But once it all came to an end, it was those games they gave away early on in the year which were most disturbing.

“It’s a shame that we didn’t get one of those banked games early,” Hall said. “Every team goes through a struggle. But if you win some games early, you have some cushion to play with. Because we got off to a slow start, every game in the second half of the season becomes a must-win game.

“I look at the Toronto game where we lost here on the last play. I look at the Montreal game that we could have won. If you get one or two of those victories, then the whole thing changes. But we created our own pit. We filled dirt up, but we just couldn’t get that last shovel to dig ourselves out of the pit.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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