November 7, 2019

Eskimos Envision The ‘Impossible’ Dream

The Eskimos won’t be just playing against the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division Semifinal at 11 a.m. MT Sunday at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

They’ll also be trying to beat the odds to become the first West Division team to represent the East Division in the Grey Cup.

The Eskimos are the 12th team in 24 years to take advantage of the CFL’s crossover rule, where the fourth-place team in one division can play in the other division’s semifinal if it has a better record than the third-place team in that division.

The rule has been in place since 1996, but only West Division teams have taken advantage of the opportunity, including each of the last four seasons. Of the previous 11 crossover teams, only four have won the East Division Semifinal, but all four lost in the East Division Final.

“When something’s never been done before, everyone thinks it’s impossible,” said Eskimos Head Coach Jason Maas. “When you’re 0-11, they think it’s impossible, and you can’t argue with them because it’s never been done.

“When I got in the league in 2000, there had been four other (West Division) teams who had tried to win (an East Division) Semifinal game, and it had never been done,” continued Maas, who played quarterback with the Eskimos from 2000-05 and from 2008-11. “They all said it was impossible to do that, too. Lo and behold, in ’08, we went in and won a game. Then all of a sudden, a couple of other teams won. So there’s always got to be a first.

“At the end of the day, someone’s going to do,” he added. “Why not us? We’ve worked hard all year. We know what kind of team we are and what kind of team we can be. All of us believe, and that’s where it starts. In order to do something that’s never been done – the impossible – you have to first believe it’s possible. And I can guarantee that everyone in that (Eskimos) locker room believes it’s possible.”

While the BC Lions have made the most appearances (five) as the crossover team, the Eskimos have had the most success, winning two of their three East Division Semifinals – 29-21 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2008 and 24-21 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2016. Edmonton also lost the East Semifinal 42-26 to the Toronto Argonauts in 2012 and both trips to the East Final – 36-26 to Montreal in 2008 and 35-23 to the Ottawa Redblacks in 2016.

Altogether, West Division teams have won only four of 15 East Division playoff games, including four of 11 East Semifinals.

On the flip side, the Alouettes have never lost to a West Division team in the playoffs, winning three East Division Semifinals and two East Finals.