Derel Walker hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2:18 left in the game to give the Edmonton Eskimos a 31-24 come-from-behind win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in pre-season action.
Advertised as a home date for the Eskimos, Saturday’s game was the first of two under the Northern Kickoff title which will see the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta host a regular season game in two weeks when the Esks take on the Toronto Argonauts in what will be the most northern regular season CFL game ever played.
The biggest question mark for anyone in Rider Nation all off-season has been ‘how was Darian Durant progressing’? Durant got the start in an effort to see how his elbow would respond after dislocating it and ending his 2014 campaign.
When Durant exited, the game fell into the hands of veteran Kevin Glenn who was back where his career started after signing with Saskatchewan in the off-season as a free agent.The Riders leader played all but one series in the first quarter, completing 4 of 8 passes for 42 yards.
His first pass was on the money, a 31-yard completion to Taj Smith which helped set up a 12-yard Chris Milo field goal.
On the opposite sideline it was Matt Nichols at the helm in the first quarter and James Franklin in the second. Franklin got the ball moving early, handing off to former Blue Bombers tailback Chad Simpson for 11-yards before dropping a pass into third-year CFLer Wallace Miles who turned the catch into a 47-yard gain.
A pass interference call on the next play put the ball on the Saskatchewan 1-yard line and Franklin punched it in from there to give Edmonton a 7-3 lead.
The Riders answered shortly thereafter however. Rookie running back Etauj Allen lined up and swung right on a lateral pass in the backfield from Franklin. The ball fell incomplete and Allen assumed the play was dead. The pass was delivered behind the line of scrimmage and remained a live play and the ruled fumble was recovered by the Riders.
Glenn quickly hit RB Jerome Messam over the middle to help set up a 2-yard touchdown toss to Alex Pierzchalski on a swing pattern to put the Riders back up.
The lead changed once again before halftime when Allen made up for his previous error by taking a pass from Jordan Lynch – who entered at QB – in the flat, absorbed a hit and fought his way into the endzone for a 9-yard score.
The Eskimos took a 14-11 lead into halftime.
The second half began with another quarterback change for the Riders, handing the ball to Brett Smith who impressed in his first taste of CFL action. The Wyoming product, who spent parts of last year on the Toronto Argonauts practice roster, led an 8-play, 79-yard drive capped off by a 32-yard touchdown where he escaped the pocket, scrambled to his right and fired a pass into Greg Hardin to re-take the lead 18-14.
Derel Walker celebrates late in the fourth quarter after hauling in what would stand as the game-winning touchdown for the Eskimos.
Six more points cushioned the Riders lead as Smith led two drives resulting in field goals. The second of those scores was set up by a huge return by rookie Nic Demski who raced his way for a 54-yard gain.
The Riders first round draft pick was active in his first ever CFL game, seeing reps not only on offence but significant touches on punt and kickoff returns.
In what had undoubtedly been the most offensive game of the pre-season to that point, Franklin re-entered for the Esks behind centre and once again capped off his own scoring drive. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, backup Riders QB was picked off and allowed Franklin to deliver a 45-yard pass to Walker to set up a 1-yard TD plunge.
Franklin’s second major would have tied the game up but the Esks missed the extra point – now from 32-yards out under the new rules – and found themselves down 24-23 with time remaining.
The Esks would complete the comeback off the poise of fifth year veteran Justin Goltz who entered for the final three posessions, delivering the game winner to Walker and added a scamper on a two-point conversion to seal the win for Edmonton.
Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge helped the Als put two touchdowns on the board in as many quarters as he and the Montreal Alouettes topped the Ottawa REDBLACKS 26-9 in pre-season action.
Bridge’s numbers did not jump off the page by any means but his poise and management of the game was impressive for the recently-drafted pivot in his first taste of pro football.
Bridge went 4 of 8 for 52 yards and one touchdown pass to RB Brandon Rutley in the win.
Saturday’s contest was played inside the confines of Laval University put was listed as a home game for Ottawa.
After a lopsided loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their pre-season debut, the REDBLACKS played their what is likely their opening day starting lineup for the entire first half.
The Henry Burris-led offence used the first two drives to showcase their newest off-season acquisitions at the receiver spot. Maurice Price, Ernest Jackson and Chris Williams all caught passes but the REDBLACKS couldn’t capitalize off any of their receptions despite moving the ball well in between the 40s.
Neither of the three playmakers played in last week’s contest in Hamilton.
The Als too countered with their starters in their first pre-season game with Jonathan Crompton looking to sharpen up before he leads Montreal in what is expected to be his first full season as a starter in the CFL.
After the Als scored a punt single, rookie kicker Boris Bene split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal to give the Montreal a 4-0 second quarter lead. The score was set up by a pair of rushes by RB Tyrell Sutton, one of which went for 12 yards.
Bene was somewhat of a hometown hero, playing his University ball at Laval and even garnered an ovation when he first stepped on the field to attempt the kick.
With 5:12 remaining in the half, Montreal head coach Tom Higgins began tapering off his starter’s playing time, beginning with Crompton who was pulled in favour of South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge who was drafted by the Als last month.
Crompton finished 2 of 6 for 17 yards while Sutton had 33 combined yards in limited action.
After the REDBLACKS got on the board with a field goal, the Als leaned on their defence to help set up the game’s first touchdown. With 1:21 left in the second quarter a Burris pass bounced off the hands of his intended target RB Jeremiah Johnson and into the waiting arms of former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and Calgary Stampeder Jonathan Hefney.
With the help of a huge block, Henfey returned the interception inside the Ottawa 10 yard line. The next play saw Bridge spot Rutley in the flat and that along with a successful 2-point conversion helped put the Als on top 12-3 heading into halftime.
Hefney is coming off a year essentially out of the CFL after being cut by the Stampeders in training camp in 2014 and catching on with the Als just prior to the opening of camp this year.
Canadian QB Brandon Bridge commanded the Montreal offence well in his first set of pro snaps, helping put two majors on the board.
Bridge continued as the second half got underway but Burris did not, finishing 21 of 21 for 126 yards and one interception in a two quarters of work.
While Burris watched backup Danny O’Brien take over the offence, Bridge took command of the Als attack. He calmly marched the Als into Ottawa territory and completed a 6-play drive by handing off to Florida product Chris Rainey who ran through the middle of the REDBLACKS defence for a 10-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 19-3 heading into the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter started, both teams inserted new pivots – Thomas DeMarco for Ottawa and Rakeem Cato for the Als.
Cato took a few drives to settle in but when he did, he delivered a strike to put the Als on the board again. Cato hit rookie reciever Johnathan Bryant in stride down the far sideline for a __-yard touchdown to extend the Montreal lead to 26-3.
Cato was a perfect 5-for-5 for 72 yards and a touchdown on his first two posessions.
The REDBLACKS added a late touchdown with 1:40 remaining when DeMarco connected with sophomore SB Khalil Paden but the ensuing two-point conversion and onside kick were no good.
The REDBLACKS become the first CFL team to wrap up their pre-season schedule and begin early prep on their season opener against the very same Alouettes. Montreal, on the other hand, has a short turnaround as they host the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium.
Quarterback Dominique Davis and slotback Greg Wilson connected early in the fourth quarter for a major to help the Calgary Stampeders top the BC Lions 20-6 in pre-season action at McMahon Stadium Friday night.
Davis was one of four pivots to see game action Friday as the Stampeders fine tune for the regular season.
John Hufnagel said earlier in the week that he would be relying heavily on his newcomers but wanted to ensure his starters shook off the rust from an off-season that including the celebrating of a Grey Cup.,
Calgary picked up right where they left off in 2014, putting the ball in the hands of RB Jon Cornish on the first drive of the game as he, along with backup Jock Sanders, muscled their way to first downs to set up a 28-yard Rene Paredes field goal.
The Leos countered with rookie Jonathan Jennings as they look to find the right blend of young backups to complement starter Travis Lulay who is recovering from a shoulder injury.
Jennings connected with Terence Jefers-Harris for 62 yards, Austin Collie for 8 but couldn’t punch it in from inside the give and settled for a chip-shot field goal to tie the game at 3.Head coach Jeff Tedford, who was making his first appearance as a CFL sideline, put the ball in the hands of the Saginaw Valley State product who moved the ball well on his first drive.
Jennings’ next possession wasn’t nearly as productive. He dropped back on a second-down and before releasing the ball got stripped by Deron Mayo. The veteran linebacker forced the turnover and set the Stamps up at the Lions 45 yard line.
The Stamps handed the ball to Bryant Moniz who took over for Bo Levi Mitchell who’s day was done after the opening possession. Mitchell's sole drive was 13 plays and produced five first downs.
Moniz found sophomore WR Eric Rodgers for gains of 12 and 13 before Paredes knocked through a field goal from 32 yards out.
Moniz and rookie Dominique Davis split the remainder of the reps under centre, staying true to Hufnagels’ plan of platooning his quarterbacks throughout the game.
Jennings marched the Lions one more time before the half came to a close, connecting with WR Brian Burnham for 32 yards to set up a field goal as the teams headed to the locker room tied at sixes.
Jennings finished 5 of 11 for 116 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.
A new half ringed in a pair of new quarterbacks as the Lions opened the third quarter with Travis Partridge and Calgary countered with National Andrew Buckley who played his college ball at the University of Calgary.
Buckley got instant field position as the Stamps forced Partridge to throw an interception. The rookie pivot tossed a pair of short completions to help set up Tyler Crapigna kick a field goal to give Calgary a 9-6 lead early in the third quarter.
Crapigna added another on the Stampeders’ next possession and the third quarter closed out without incident with Calgary up by six.
Davis came back in Buckley as the third quarter came to a close and as the fourth got underway, he led the game’s first touchdown drive to open up a 14-point lead.
Off a playaction fake, Davis rolled right out of the pocket and spotted newcomer WR Greg Wilson down the sidelines who hauled in the 24-yard touchdown pass with 11:10 remaining. A successful two-point conversion gave the Stampeders a 20-6 advantage.
The Lions entered Greg McGhee to close out the rest of the game at quarterback but couldn't muster any more points.
The Stampeders will close out thier pre-season schedule at Mosaic Stadium in Regina next weekend while the Lions return home to host the Edmonton Eskimos.