EDMONTON - CALGARY — A preseason loss is hardly the end of the world.
But it was certainly an eye-opener for any new Edmonton Eskimos on Friday, when the Calgary Stampeders kicked a last-second field goal to win 20-17.
Despite leading for the first 58:59, Edmonton saw leads of 11-0 and 17-9 fade away with back-to-back receptions by Stampeders receiver Marquay McDaniel to score the tying touchdown and two-point convert, before a deflected punt led to Rob Maver’s winning field goal as time ran out.
While a loss is a loss, the Eskimos may have come out better for the experience.
“Absolutely not the worst thing that could happen. It’s a good experience for our guys,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “To come down here when you didn’t bring 15 starters and lead a football game for 58 minutes and you lose it in the end is obviously disappointing, but we’re very encouraged by what we saw from our guys fighting for backup positions.”
And for many of the new import players, it was their first onfield look at the CFL game, with all its similarities and differences. But when it comes down to it, it’s still football.
And it still takes a full 60 minutes before a winner is decided.
“Just missed assignments on that last drive by a couple guys,” said Joe Burnett, who is honing in on a starting cornerback job after returning an interception for Edmonton’s lone touchdown of the game. “We’ve got to maintain mentally and physically tuned for four quarters.”
While Burnett has the advantage of being on the Eskimos practice roster since last October, his fellow Americans new to the CFL got their first look at the game and how quickly things can change.
“I think a lot of guys were able to see the speed of the game, to see a different-coloured jersey coming at them as far as route running techniques,” Burnett said. “I think a lot of guys will take notes and prepare themselves for the upcoming game.”
Which comes against the defending-champion B.C. Lions Thursday at 7 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium.
“That’s very important to learn, as well, is how do you manage a lead?,” Reed said. “When you’re up by eight, you expect that you’ve done enough to win the football game. Obviously this is a good teaching point.”
While veteran quarterbacks Steven Jyes and Kerry Joseph didn’t dress for the game, along with 13 other returning starters, Edmonton’s fate was largely left up to the up-and-coming pupils.
“That’s just a learning curve, that’s why we have the pre-season,” said quarterback Matt Nichols, who got the start. “It’s really not something where you can throw guys into a professional football game and have them be 100% successful right off the get-go.
“So these guys are going to learn, I’m going to learn. We’re just going to get better from it and will start preparing for B.C.”
RUSHING CONCLUSIONS: Five Eskimos combined for just 42 rushing yards on 13 carries Friday.
“We looked at some guys,” Reed said. “We didn’t do well. When you look at the scoreboard, I didn’t think we had any rushing yards, but at the same time, when you look at those guys in protection, for the most part, our running backs did an absolutely excellent job.”