Last-place Eskimos have first-place attitude
By CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency
|Matt Nichols, left, and Kerry Joseph at Eskimos practice Monday. (QMI Agency/DAVID BLOOM)
EDMONTON - The standings say the Eskimos are last in the CFL West. Coming off a pair of convincing wins, the locker-room atmosphere tells you a different story.
They may not become the best last-place team in CFL history, but only once in the history of the CFL West has a last-place team finished with a .500 or better record. That was the 2008, Eskimos who ended the season at 10-8 and lost the crossover East final to Montreal.
In the entire history of the CFL West, there have been only three times that a last-place team has won eight games Ñ that 2008 Eskimos squad and the 8-10 B.C. Lions teams in 1997 and 2009.
All three of those teams crossed over into the CFL East playoffs.
With three games left on the regular-season schedule, seven wins under their belts and momentum on their side, the Eskimos look poised to at least join that elite group.
They're in last place heading into B.C. Place Friday night, but when the dust settles at the end of the season, that can still change.
"Where we are right now, we put ourselves in this hole," said quarterback Kerry Joseph. "Losing five straight, we had some opportunities to win games and we didn't. That's just the way the situation brought about."
What losing those ones that got away did is instill a sense of urgency on the team. Now, every start has a playoff feel to it.
"It's shown the character and perserverance we have a team," said Joseph. "In adverse times, we stayed together. Now, guys continue to battle. We knew if we stayed together and pushed the envelope, we'd come out with it.
"Things can change. We take care of business and things will take care of themselves."
With one more win than Saskatchewan down the stretch, the Eskimos would tie the Roughriders. Since the Green and Gold have won the season series against Saskatchewan, a tie would give them the third playoff spot and send the Roughriders east to test their luck.
Even though it may be more advantageous for a west team to advance against their sad-sack eastern brethren, that's not the way this team's mindset has developed.
"I haven't ever been in this position Ñ fighting for our lives, trying to stay in it," said running back Hugh Charles, a 100-yard rusher for the second time this year on Friday.
The big factor has been the emergence of the offence under Joseph, an offence that has outpointed its opposition 72-40 the last two outings.
"When you protect the quarterback and run the ball the way we did, the game speaks for itself," said Charles. "The play on defence has been there the whole year. We, as an offence, needed to come through and that's what we're doing.
"We're helping out now. We're no longer a one-dimensional team having our defence trying to save our butts."
The magic number is now two. Any combination of Eskimos wins and Hamilton losses will secure a playoff spot somewhere.
"We've got three games left and we want to win them all because we can," said Charles. "That's where our minds are at."
Defensive lineman Ted Laurent can see that this last-place team is not hanging their heads like most last-place teams do.
"The way we played the last two games, we've got swagger back," said Laurent. "We've just got to keep it going."
EXTRA POINTS: The Eskimos have signed three players to practice roster contracts: import receiver Josh Chichester, Canadian kick returner Steven Turner and import defensive back Bryan Williams.