TURNOVERS SINK STAMPS AS ESKIMOS CLAIM PRE-SEASON VICTORY
Jordan Lynch threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another while the Stampeders turned the ball over six times, as the Eskimos claimed a rare pre-season rendition of the Battle of Alberta 23-13.
Mike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell each got the start on Saturday night in front of 28,367 at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium and looked solid in limited action. In the end, the Eskimos got the best of a turnover-marred game to start their season under new head coach Jason Maas on the right foot.
Maas made his debut along with Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson, and neither coach will say he had a memorable first game. The Stamps struggled throughout the night with turnovers, while the Eskimos also surrendered a fourth-quarter touchdown on a fumble returned for a six.
Lynch scored a game-high two touchdowns, including on a pass to Bryant Mitchell, while James Franklin also threw a touchdown pass in limited action to lead the Esks’ offence.
Reilly threw for 54 yards on 5-of-8 passing and set up a Sean Whyte field goal on his two possessions before handing the keys to the offence to Franklin. Brandon Zylstra led the Eskimos with 66 yards on four catches and Bryant Mitchell added 38 yards on six catches to go with the touchdown.
Bo Levi Mitchell’s stay in the game was even shorter, but he completed five of six passes for for 56 yards and looked sharp on his lone drive of the game.
Looking to get their new-look offence in sync early, the Eskimos started the game with Reilly on the field and he got in a rhythm early, completing three of his first five passes for 29 yards to set up a 50-yard field goal by Whyte.
But down 3-0, Mitchell answered the bell. A short pass to Joe West and a 26-yard run along the right sideline moved the Stampeders into Esks’ territory at the 39. Another catch by West, his second of the game, and a broken tackle put the Stamps’ offence inside the 20.
With the chip shot by kicker Rene Paredes, the Stamps knotted the game at three apiece while Mitchell headed to the bench with five completions on six attempts.
On Reilly’s second and final drive of the game the Esks moved into scoring position thanks to Nate Coehoorn’s third catch of the first quarter, but on his second field goal try of the game Whyte misfired from the right hashmark after last year going 24-of-26 in his half-season stint with the Eskimos.
Drew Tate and James Franklin were next off the bench for the Stampeders and Eskimos respectively, and for the Stamps it was a different quarterback but same result. West continued to be the most popular target in the Stamps’ offence, and his fifth catch of the game put him at 80 yards in total and helped set up Paredes’ second field goal of the game to make it 6-3 Calgary.
Franklin and Thomas DeMarco each exchanged possessions at quarterback for the Eskimos, but with the Esks down 6-3 late in the second quarter it was Franklin who got the ball rolling. After a first down pickup by Sakir Bell, Franklin threw to Bell for an 11-yard pickup that was followed up with an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Stampeders.
Already knocking on the door, Franklin then found rookie receiver Anthony Barrett for a 36-year touchdown, giving the Eskimos their first lead since early in the first quarter, 9-6.
That lead stood up at the half, then in the second half the Stamps found themselves in turnover trouble. Bryant Moniz, fighting with Andrew Buckley to be the team’s third-string quarterback, was intercepted by Eskimos defensive halfback Cord Parks.
The always-elusive Lynch came into the game and hit the ground running with a 15-yard gain, then also showed he’s got an arm, finding Zylstra for a 15-yard gain and Natey Adjei for 10 more to keep the sticks moving.
Then Lynch, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the 103rd Grey Cup Championship last season, did what he does best, finishing the drive with a 10-yard run followed by a one-yard plunge over the goal line.
The play was reviewed but upheld, extending the Eskimos’ lead to 16-6.
The Eskimos kept the momentum in their corner after that when Darryl McBride Jr. forced the fourth turnover of the game against the Stampeders, another interception off Moniz.
After an 11-yard completion to Mitchell, Lynch connected with a completion to Darryl Surgent before going back to Mitchell for his second touchdown of the game to give the Eskimos a commanding 23-6 lead.
Turnovers plagued the Stampeders all night but it wasn’t done yet. This time it was Stamps running back Lache Seastrunk fumbling the football, turning it over to the Eskimos for the fifth time this game.
The Esks turned the offence back over to DeMarco and went two-and-out, but the turnover ended a threatening Stamps drive that came to a sudden end inside the Eskimos’ 20.
Ciante Evans added a late touchdown for a Stampeders off a fumble recovery, cutting the deficit to 23-13 on the scoop and score.
The Eskimos had one more turnover in their back pockets, a turnover on downs, their sixth turnover of the game on a 15-yard loss for the sack.
Whyte missed three field goals and an extra point for the Eskimos but outside of that, a solid effort helped the Eskimos with a 23-13 victory over their bitter rival in a rematch of the Western Final.
The Stampeders close out pre-season on June 17 in Vancouver against the Lions, while the Eskimos cap it all off with a home date against the Riders on June 18. Both teams open their season on Saturday, June 25, as the Esks host the REDBLACKS in a Grey Cup rematch and the Stamps head right back to B.C. for a meeting with the Lions.