November 15, 2019

Esks Believe Upsetting CFL’s Top Team Their Destiny

The Eskimos don’t have a lot of playoff history with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and probably don’t want to remember much of their recent history during the regular season.

The Ticats have swept the two-game season series between the teams each of the last two years.

“They’re the best (team) in the league for a reason,” said Eskimos Head Coach Jason Maas. “They find ways to win. They’ve won more (games) than anybody this year.”

The Tiger-Cats had a 15-3 record during the regular season, winning all nine games on home turf at Tim Hortons Field.

Hamilton jumped out to a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter when the Tiger-Cats played the Eskimos at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium in mid-September. Edmonton rallied to tie the score 24-24 with 12 minutes remaining and at 27-27 with 35 seconds left on the clock, only to lose 30-27 when Lirim Hajrullahu kicked a 34-yard field goal off the left upright on the final play of the game.

When the teams played again at Hamilton a few weeks later, the Eskimos got off to a better start, trailing only 8-3 after the first quarter. But the Ticats pulled away with 11 unanswered points in the second quarter and went on to win 42-12.

Backup quarterback Logan Kilgore played both games for the Eskimos with starter Trevor Harris sidelined with an injury to his throwing arm.

“Trevor hasn’t played them yet, so to have him back in the lineup healthy will obviously give us some more confidence,” Maas said about his starting quarterback, who completed 36 of 39 passes for 421 yards in Sunday’s 37-29 victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division Semifinal.

It was Harris’s second game in nine weeks.

Maas also pointed out that the Eskimos will gain confidence from their winning performance in the East Semifinal.

“We will go into that building (Tim Hortons Field) expecting to win,” Maas promised. “We believe it’s our destiny. We believe it’s us who’s going to (be the first West Division crossover playoff team to represent the East Division in the Grey Cup).

“It’s going to take a lot of (preparation), a lot of believe, a lot of hard work and, ultimately, it’s going to take a great game of execution in order to make it happen, but that’s what we believe we’re capable of.”

Aware that Hamilton is the only CFL team which hasn’t lost a home game all season, Harris admitted that “it’s obviously going to be a very daunting task with how great they are. They were 15-3 on the year and hosting the East (Division) Final and resting this week for a reason. We’ve got to go in there with our ‘A game’ and see how we stack up.”

Eskimos defensive back Josh Johnson, who had three interceptions in the final 24 minutes of the East Semifinal, also acknowledged that the Ticats will be “a big handful.”

“We know they’re going to be throwing stuff at us (the Tiger-Cats offence uses all sorts of misdirection and option plays to confuse opposing defences), but we’ve got to fight with them and try to be victorious,” he said.

Finally, Maas said the Eskimos will have to do “some extraordinary stuff” to defeat the Ticats because they’re a very talented team with all three phases (offence, defence and special teams) coached extremely well, “but there’s still that belief we can get it done.”

The only time the Eskimos and Tiger-Cats have met in a playoff game was on Nov. 13, 2016, in the East Division Semifinal. The Esks won that game 24-21.

Edmonton and Hamilton also had two Grey Cup matchups. The Esks won 48-10 in 1980 with the middle of their five-in-a-row Grey Cup championship teams and lost 39-15 in 1986.