Sunday, June 17, 2018

JENNINGS LEADS LIONS OVER ALS IN WEEK 1 FINALE

Jonathon Jennings and the BC Lions clawed their way to a 22-10 home victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the Week 1 finale on Saturday night. The Lions’ versatile quarterback got his 2018 season off to a hot start, completing 20 of 24 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a career-high 57 yards on the ground. BC’s defence did its part as well, adding an interception and five sacks to help hand Montreal their 12th-straight loss.
The Alouettes came out strong on their opening possession, with running back Tyrell Sutton carrying the ball five-straight times to put the Lions’ defence on their heels. Receiver B.J. Cunningham appeared to give Montreal the early lead with a long 52-yard touchdown catch, but the play was called back on a holding penalty.
Drew Willy and the Als’ offence made up for it just two plays later after the veteran quarterback found receiver Chris Williams deep down the field for a 56-yard connection. The ball was knocked loose before Williams could cross the goal line, but receiver Eugene Lewis was there to recover it in the end zone for his first career CFL touchdown. Kicker Boris Bede added the extra point to give Montreal the early 7-0 lead.
Jennings looked sharp on the Lions’ second offensive drive, zipping a slant pass to receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux to get things rolling. The athletic quarterback used both his arm and legs to push his team down the field, and BC’s passing attack found a steady rhythm that would continue throughout the game.
Receiver Bryan Burnham made an acrobatic 12-yard catch on the drive, and Jennings hit receiver Shaq Johnson on the very next play for a 35-yard touchdown. Johnson used his speed to gain separation and get open on the right side of the field, and kicker Ty Long knocked through the extra point to tie the game at seven apiece.
Montreal’s offence looked strong again on their second drive, with Willy hooking up with receiver Ernest Jackson for a big 54-yard strike. But Odell Willis’ first sack as a Lion stifled the Als’ drive, and they would settle for a 30-yard field goal to grab the 10-7 lead. Willy completed 10 of 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Jennings continued to make plays in multiple ways after the Lions got the ball back, as the quarterback found space in the Als’ defensive front for a 21-yard run to bring the Lions into Montreal territory. The Als’ defence bounced back on the drive to hold strong, and Long punted the ball for a single to bring BC within two points.
Running back Jeremiah Johnson began to get the Lions’ running game going in the second quarter, and Long would boot another punt for a single to bring the score to 10-9 in the second quarter.
Both defences stole the show in the third quarter, with both defensive lines clogging up running lanes and applying pressure to keep the big plays to a minimum. The lone score of the quarter would be a 27-yard BC field goal from Long, giving the Lions a narrow 11-10 lead.
BC continued to build momentum near the end of the quarter with Jennings completing seven-straight passes, and Long would knock through a 30-yard field to extend the Lions’ lead to 15-10 early in the fourth quarter.
The first turnover of the game came when Willy was picked off by Lions defensive back Garry Peters while trying to complete a short pass over the middle to Eugene Lewis. Jennings continued his big performance immediately after getting the ball back, calling his own number for a 16-yard scamper. The Lions’ offence capitalized on the Peters interception when Jennings connected with receiver Cory Watson for an 11-yard touchdown strike, giving BC a 22-10 lead that would hold to seal the Week 1 victory.
The Alouettes will look to bounce back when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Friday in Week 2, while the Lions will be off until travel to face the Edmonton Eskimos in Week 3.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

WHEN IT COUNTS: STAMPS COME ALIVE IN FOURTH TO TOP TICATS

It took just over three full quarters but the Calgary Stampeders offence came alive when it counted most, finding pay dirt in the fourth quarter and outlasting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-14 in their season opener Saturday evening at McMahon Stadium.
Despite passing for over 200 yards in the first half it was the Stampeders run game that fueled the home squad in the final frame with Don Jackson and Terry Williams combining for 117 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the contest.
The Ticats — who held the lead for a good majority of the game — ran into an active Stampeders secondary down the stretch which shut down Jeremiah Masoli who passed for 302 yards on just under 70% passing.
One of the subplots in this matchup was how the young and inexperienced Tiger-Cats secondary would net out against a veteran-laden Stampeders offence.  Despite scrimmaging from their own seven-yard line to start the game, Calgary pressed the issue early as Mitchell connected twice with Reggie Begelton totaling 70 yards to set up a 23-yard Rene Paredes field goal to open the contest 3-0.
The Stampeders continued to move the ball with ease for the remainder of the first quarter but would lament a few missed opportunities as three overthrows stalled Calgary drives.
Despite being in control most of the opening frame the Stamps would surrender the first major of the game when Masoli helped get his team out of a second-and-long deep in his own end.
Facing pressure, Masoli stepped into a deep throw down the near sideline to WR Mike Jones who had a step on his man and turned a catch-and-run into a 76-yard gain.  On the ensuing play, Masoli went play-action, froze the Stampeders defensive front and scampered 13-yards untouched for the major and a 7-6 Ticats lead heading into the second quarter.
As the second quarter rolled on, it was the tale of two quarterbacks looking to attack in different ways.  Despite some incompletions, Mitchell continued to stretch the field while Masoli took what he could underneath.  Both moved the ball well but could not capitalize once in opposing territory.
The teams traded a pair of field goals before the half with Hamilton holding a slim 11-9 advantage.
Despite each defence forcing drives to come to a halt, both pivots each put up over 200 yards passing in the first half with Masoli completing passes at a rate of 84%.
Masoli continued to operate at a high efficiency when the third quarter began but two consecutive positive possessions ended just past midfield – one by fumble, one by sack.
The Stamps also had challenges gaining traction in the third against a Ticats defence that despite giving up big gains along the ground, took away the deep ball.
Calgary opened the fourth quarter with a 23-yard field goal by Paredes to regain the lead 12-9 before they finally took their biggest lead of the contest. A 39-yard pass interference call on Hamilton’s DB Don Unamba allowed Mitchell to find Kemar Jorden for a 15-yard touchdown with 9:58 remaining.  The five-play, 65-yard touchdown drive was capped off by a Terry Williams run on a two-point conversion to give Calgary a 19-11 lead.
The Tiger-Cats looked to answer and did so with a 43-yard field goal after a pair of completions from Masoli to Jalen Saunders cut the lead to 19-14 with 4:25 on the clock.  Saunders finished with over 100 yards receiving on the day.
The Ticats had an opportunity to make a comeback, taking the ball with 2:33 left and scrimmaging from their 34 yard line.  A pair of Saunders completions put them in Calgary territory Masoli was flished out of the pocket, forced a throw and was picked off by veteran Brandon Smith.
Jackson put the game away shortly thereafter when he took a handoff 44 yards for the touchdown and iced the 28-14 victory.
Hamilton will double dip in Alberta visiting the Edmonton Eskimos in Week 2.  As for the Stampeders, they will get another shot at an Eastern opponent when they visit Toronto for a Grey Cup rematch with the Argonauts.

World Cup Recap for June 16, 2018


Modric-inspired Croatia open with a win

No shots on target, one goal. The statistics at half-time during Croatia's meeting with Nigeria reflected an opening 45 minutes shaded by the Balkan side – but largely dominated by defenders. Ivan Perisic went closest to hitting the target with an effort from 20m after a quarter of an hour, but in the end it was Nigeria's Oghenekaro Etebo who brought joy to the huge Croatian contingent in Kaliningrad, beating his own goalkeeper following a corner.
Cautious in the first half, Nigeria came out with more purpose after the break, only for Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida to keep Odion Ighalo well and truly quiet. In fact, just as the Super Eagles began turning up the pressure on Danijel Subasic's goal, the *Vatreni* (The Fiery Ones) responded by doubling their lead, Luka Modric converting from the spot after William Ekong held Mario Mandzukic in the box. It was no less than Modric deserved after a superb display that earned him the Budweiser Man of the Match award.

This was a difficult match for Croatia, but the Vatreni picked up three points in an excellent opening game for Zlatko Dalic's men. Perhaps they still need to find their rhythm, and perhaps they were not especially impressive, but ultimately they came out on top. There were gaps in the Nigerian defence and Croatia were able to make the most of them.

Nigeria had trouble creating chances, and unfortunate mistakes at set-pieces proved very costly against superior opposition. The Super Eagles lacked imagination up front, and although they were mostly able to frustrate Croatia's talented forwards at the back, it was not enough to secure three points. They now need to overcome Iceland to stave off the prospect of an early exit.

Croatia's captain and playmaker Luka Modric was a decisive presence, taking the corner that led to the opening goal before burying the penalty that gave the Vatreni breathing space. On top of those two crucial contributions, he shone throughout the game with his vision and slick passing.

Croatia ended a run of three games without a victory in their opening fixture at a World Cup. The Vatreni's last win in their first game had been a 3-1 defeat of Jamaica in 1998.

What's next
Argentina v Croatia - Group D, 21 June, Nizhny Novgorod
Nigeria v Iceland - Group D, 22 June, Moscow, Volgograd

Denmark do just enough to edge out Peru

Denmark edged out Peru thanks to Yussuf Poulsen’s second-half goal to join France on three points in Group C of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
The Peru fans were out in force in Saransk, making their players feel right at home. Suitably inspired, they dominated the first half but could not make the most of the opportunities they created. 
Perhaps the pressure of Peru’s 36-year absence from the world finals weighed heavy on their shoulders, with Christian Cueva missing a penalty just before the break. Playing a more patient game, the Danes were unable to generate any clear-cut chances as the first half ended goalless.
Adopting a more adventurous approach after the restart, Denmark were rewarded when Christian Eriksen’s precise through-ball allowed Poulsen to open the scoring. Though the South Americans piled the pressure on in search of an equaliser, the Danes held firm, with keeper Kasper Schmeichel pulling off some fine stops.
Brimming with confidence, Peru put in a performance that banished memories of their long absence from the world finals. The South Americans created numerous opportunities and missed a golden chance from the spot. Finding themselves a goal behind at the start of the second half, they turned to the talismanic Paolo Guerrero, but not even he could prevent them from falling to a defeat that did not reflect their efforts on the pitch.
Denmark came under a lot of pressure at the start of the match, not least on the right flank, and tried unsuccessfully to bring Eriksen into the game with a series of long balls. Though William Kvist was forced off with injury, they found the goal they were looking for and worked hard to defend it, earning three precious points in the process.
Yussuf Poulsen had a match to remember. As well as being in the right place at the right time to collect Eriksen’s pass and score the only goal of the game, he also defended tirelessly and was Denmark’s hero of the hour.
Hoping to celebrate their World Cup return in style, the Peruvians found luck was not on their side, as their winless run in the competition stretched to seven games.
What’s next
Australia-Denmark | *Group C | 21 June, Samara (Samara Arena)
France-Peru
* | Group C | 21 June, Ekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg Arena)

Iceland thwart Argentina on World Cup debut

The action at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium got off to a thrilling start with the match between FIFA World Cup™ veterans Argentina and debutants Iceland. Despite stamping their authority on the game’s opening stages, La Albiceleste struggled to find space against a deep-lying Icelandic defence. The breakthrough came in the 19th minute when Sergio Aguero fired the ball home on the turn to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. The South Americans’ joy was short-lived, however, as Alfred Finnbogason made history by scoring his country’s first-ever World Cup goal just four minutes later.
Lionel Messi had the biggest opportunity to take the lead in the second half, but his penalty was saved by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson. Although Argentina continued to press for a goal, they were repeatedly denied by the Nordic side’s staunch defensive efforts.

While Argentina proved unable to find a win in their opening match, showed some defensive weaknesses and even missed a penalty, this match also provided plenty of encouragement. The team that took to the pitch were spirited with a clear game plan, despite failing to unlock an extremely compact Iceland defence.

Iceland’s plan worked to perfection. The tournament newcomers know the kind of football they need to play to achieve their objectives. They have to be compact and unrelenting. The Icelandic players will not get results by playing Argentina’s brand of attacking football. Ahead of the game, Hallgrimsson urged his players not to give Messi any space, and they did this extremely effectively under captain Aron Gunnarsson’s leadership.

Hannes Halldorsson palmed Lionel Messi’s penalty clear in the 64th minute to secure his team an impressive 1-1 draw against favourites Argentina.

The last Argentina player to wear the No19 shirt at a World Cup before Aguero was Messi on his tournament debut against Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.

What’s next?
Argentina - Croatia – Group D, 21 June, Nizhny Novgorod
Nigeria - Iceland – Group D, 22 June, Volgograd

Own goal sees France edge Australia

The third matchday of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia began with the Group C encounter between France and Australia in Kazan. Although Les Bleus made a bright start, stars Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann were unable to capitalise on their chances. The Aussies gained a foothold in the game after the first 15 minutes, with Hugo Lloris palming their best first-half opportunity clear when team-mate Corentin Tolisso threatened to deflect a free-kick into his own net.
The action then came thick and fast after the interval. After consulting with the video assistant referees (VAR team), referee Andres Cunha awarded France a penalty that Griezmann coolly converted. Samuel Umtiti then handled the ball in the box just a few minutes later, with Mile Jedinak scoring the resulting spot-kick. Didier Deschamps’ side ultimately turned the match back in their favour, thanks to an own goal from Australia defender Aziz Behich.
Both teams will be back in action on Thursday 21 June, when France take on Peru, while Australia will be under pressure against Denmark.

By the end of this match, only one thing was certain: France still have plenty of work to do. Their weaknesses were clear, as they sought to find their rhythm. It was a tough emcounter, and it is difficult to escape the fact that Les Bleus were very lucky to secure all three points in their opening game. Eleven top players do not always make a top team – not yet, anyway…

The Socceroos held their own against their French opponents. They may even have deserved a draw and can certainly be satisfied with their performance. They were well organised and resolute in defence. Coach Bert van Marwijk will be glad that his team delivered what he has been calling for all week. All in all, the boys in green and gold can be proud of how they pushed France all the way.

The French whirlwind was extremely nimble and busy throughout the game, constantly switching positions and popping up both up front and on both wings. Eventually only a foul could stop Griezmann, who then stepped up to convert the resulting penalty himself.

At 19 years and 178 days old, Kylian Mbappe today became the youngest player ever to feature for France at a World Cup. In doing so, he broke the record set by Bruno Bellone, who played for L’Equipe Tricolore at Spain 1982, aged 20 years and 118 days.

What’s next?
Denmark v Australia - Group C, 21 June, Samara (Samara Arena)
France v Peru - Group C, 21 June, Ekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg Arena)

Friday, June 15, 2018

DEFENCE SHINES BRIGHT AS RIDERS DOWN ARGOS AT MOSAIC

All eyes were on the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence and Zach Collaros ahead of Friday night’s contest but it was the team’s defence that stole the show in their 27-19 win over the Toronto Argonauts.
Saskatchewan’s defensive unit held Toronto to just four points in the first half and disrupted Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray throughout the entire night on their way to victory at Mosaic Stadium.
Charleston Hughes made an immediate impact in his Roughriders debut, recording three sacks on Ray in the first half alone, and defensive back Nick Marshall scored a pick-six late in the contest.
Collaros, yet another Rider making his first start in the green and white, spread the ball evenly among his receivers, hitting nine different targets through the air, including running back Jerome Messam, on the way to his first win with his new team. He finished his night throwing for 203 yards and connecting on 18 of his 25 pass attempts.
Naaman Roosevelt scored a touchdown for the Riders in the win and kicker Brett Lauther was good on four of his five field goal attempts.
After a lackluster first half that saw Ray throw for just 71 yards, the Argonauts pivot ended the night with 232 passing yards and an interception. His backup, James Franklin, scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak and threw a touchdown pass to Declan Cross in the second half but it wasn’t enough for a comeback.
Both teams took the first few possessions of the contest to feel each other out as each defence stood tall on either side, trading two-and-outs as things got under way at Mosaic Stadium.
The Boatmen’s defence put early pressure on Collaros, who was making his debut in Rider green, with Cleyon Laing and Shawn Lemon both recording a sack on the former Hamilton Tiger-Cats pivot.
The first point of the contest was scored on a rouge and Toronto took a 1-0 lead just over five minutes in.
Collaros started to put first downs together as he got more comfortable with the Roughriders offence late in the first quarter. A 16-yard catch from Duron Carter and two penalties (15 yards each) to Argos defensive back T.J. Heath moved Saskatchewan down the field and into Toronto territory. Collaros kept rolling with No. 89, tossing an incompletion to his receiver and then an 11-yard grab for a first down, as the pair started to build some early chemistry. That drive set up a 32-yard missed field goal from Lauther to tie the score at 1-1.
As Ray tried to generate some offence for his Argonauts, Hughes recorded his 100th career sack, which was also Hughes’ first as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, forcing Toronto to punt the ball away.
To start the second quarter, Lauther hit his second field goal attempt of the evening, this one from 45-yards out, to give the Riders their first lead of the contest (4-1).
Once again the Riders defence held the Argos to a two-and-out on Toronto’s next possession. Ed Gainey broke up the pass intended for S.J. Green on first and 10 and Willie Jefferson knocked down Ray’s next pass attempt, forcing Pfeffer to punt the ball away.
Collaros tossed his first touchdown pass as Rider to Roosevelt to put the home team up 11-1 as the quarterback continued to gain confidence as the game progressed. A third down gamble (which was a 34-yard completion to Caleb Holley) proved to be the right play call as it extended the drive that started on their own 30-yard line and set up for the major score.
Lauther hit his second-straight field goal to add three more points to the Riders lead. The 43-yard kick put Saskatchewan up 14-1 with under three minutes left in the half.
Hughes continued to make Ray’s night miserable as he added his third sack of the game late in the second quarter.
On that same drive, Pfeffer’s 35-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 14-4 as the half finished and the teams went to their respective locker rooms.
Collaros finished the first half connecting on 12 of his 16 passes for 142 yards and a major score as he started to settle in. His counterpart, Ray, completed just six of his 13 passes for 71 yards after 30 minutes.
Toronto started the second half with the ball, hoping that the break from action would kick start their offence. The Riders defence had other plans, however, forcing Toronto to punt the ball away.
Pfeffer added another single for the Argonauts on his team’s next series, cutting Saskatchewan’s lead to 14-5 in the third quarter.
Collaros continued the momentum on his team’s side late in the third quarter, moving the sticks into field goal range. Lauther was good on his 46-yard attempt, increasing Saskatchewan’s lead to 17-5.
Toronto had the ball to start the fourth quarter and a marched down the field to set up Franklin’s one-yard sneak for his team’s first major score of the contest. With Pfeffer’s point after, the touchdown score cut the Riders lead to 17-12.
Saskatchewan’s defence continued to roll late in the fourth quarter, as Nick Marshall picked off Ray and took it to the house for a touchdown. The 65-yard return put the Riders up 24-12.
Toronto wasn’t ready to give up just yet. On the team’s next drive, Franklin tossed a touchdown pass to Cross with 2:16 left in the game to cut the Riders lead to 24-19.
With a five-point lead, Collaros and his offence stepped back onto the field and moved into field goal range where Lauther made his 32-yard attempt to put the Riders up 27-19 with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Ray and the Argonauts hit the field for one last chance to move down the sticks but were unsuccessful and the Riders started their 2018 season off with a win.
The Riders head to the nation’s capital next week to take on the Ottawa REDBLACKS while the Toronto Argonauts are at home to host the Calgary Stampeders.

World Cup Recap For June 15, 2018


Ronaldo illuminates stellar draw with Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo was Portugal’s saviour once again as he scored a hat-trick to secure a draw against Spain. It was the Real Madrid man’s highest goal tally in a FIFA World Cup™ match.
He kicked off with an early penalty, deceiving Nacho inside the box to win it and then stroking the ball home from the spot. Fortunately for *La Roja*, Diego Costa was also at his bristling best, getting the better of the Portugal defence to level the scores. Isco then thumped a rasping drive against the bar. Yet while Spain dominated possession they were vulnerable on the counter, and it was on the break that Ronaldo put his side back in front, firing in a drive that David de Gea was unable to hold.  
Costa scored his second equaliser of the night just after the restart before Nacho atoned for his penalty-box trip on Ronaldo by powering a superb half-volley in off the post, his first goal for Spain. As the clock ticked down, however, Gerard Pique brought down CR7 just outside the box, with the Portugal star dusting himself down to complete the scoring with a sublime free-kick.
The Portuguese could not have wished for a better start, or a better ending for that matter. Spain made them work hard for a well-earned point, which came courtesy of a classy treble from the best player in the world.
Spain impressed on Fernando Hierro’s debut in the dugout, coming from behind only for Cristiano Ronaldo to spoil De Gea’s evening. The midfield excelled and though Costa’s double and Nacho maiden goal for his country were not enough to secure three points, they can take plenty of satisfaction from the result, as can the Portuguese.
The Portugal captain ensured a share of the spoils in a match that Spain dominated, becoming only the third Portugal player to score a World Cup hat-trick after Eusebio at England 1966 and Pauleta at Korea/Japan 2002.
Ronaldo opened the scoring from the spot with only three minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, the third fastest penalty in the history of the World Cup. Only Dutch duo Johan Neeskens and Robin van Persie have scored quicker spot-kicks, the former after 87 seconds of the Final against West Germany in 1974 and the latter after two and a half minutes of the match for third place against Brazil in 2014.
What’s next
Iran-Spain, Group B, 20 June, Kazan
Portugal-Morocco, Group B, 20 June, Moscow

Iran snatch late win with own goal heartbreak

For the second time on Friday, a last-minute goal has transformed the state of a group at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, and cut down a North African side. While it was Uruguay in the earlier encounter, a heartbreaking own goal sunk Morocco in IR Iran's favour for a 1-0 win.
Morocco flew out of the traps in Saint Petersburg, carving out some sensational chances, but Iran easily could have gone in ahead at the break. By contrast, the second-half hardly had a opening worthy of note, until deep in stoppage time when Aziz Bouhaddouz headed into his own net.

Iran made it. A second ever win at a World Cup. Team Melli found itself still in the game come the closing stages after being under pressure in the opening minutes. They hit Morocco on the counter-attack at certain points, but to score the crucial goal they had to wait until the final seconds of stoppage time. That own goal leaves Iran hopeful and eager for their upcoming fixtures, but they still need at least a point to have a chance at qualifying.

A heartbreaking defeat for Morocco. They had the chances, but Amine Harit's superb supply only reflected the glaring absence of a true centre-forward in the team. In five visits now, Morocco have never won their first World Cup. Ultimately, the absence of Nabil Dirar cannot be underestimated and it will be a real challenge to pick themselves up for the Portugal game.

What’s next
Morocco v Portugal – Group B, 20 June, Moscow (Luzhniki)
Iran v Spain – Group B, 20 June, Kazan

Pain for returning Egypt as Uruguay earn late win

Uruguay were made to work overtime before finally edging a late 1-0 win over Egypt in their opening Group A contest in Ekaterinburg. Defender Jose Gimenez was the unlikely hero with a towering last-minute winning header, after Egypt had impressed with their organisation. Star forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez were largely starved of opportunities, although the former hit the post with a free-kick, as Uruguay finished strongly. Egypt's star forward Mohamed Salah failed to make an appearance after injury and the Pharaohs’ Russia 2018 opener ended on a sour note.

Egypt's match against Uruguay was headed for a draw until Uruguay finally broke the deadlock. The Pharaohs held their opponents away from goal due to the defensive focus of coach Hector Cuper, which succeeded in reducing the danger of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. However, the attack was not completely absent from the Egyptian team, despite the absence of Mo Salah.

Uruguay struggled to break down a well-organised Egypt side until the latter stages. The Uruguayans had more of the ball, trying to use the flanks, but it failed to pay dividends until the last part of the match. La Celeste suffered more than expected, but were able to win a World Cup opening match for the first time since Mexico 1970.

What’s next
Russia v Egypt – Group A, 19 June, St Petersburg
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia – Group A, 20 June, Rostov-on-Don

WEATHERING THE STORM: ESKS OUTLAST BOMBERS IN SEASON OPENER

Mike Reilly orchestrated a late-game comeback to lead the Edmonton Eskimos to a victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night.
The contest didn’t end until early on Friday morning, thanks to two weather related delays, as the Eskimos opened their season with a 33-30 win on the road.
Sean Whyte kicked the game-winning field goal to seal the deal as the seconds ticked off the clock at Investors Group Field.
For the home team, rookie quarterback Chris Streveler tossed three touchdown passes, to Derel Walker, Weston Dressler and Drew Wolitarsky in his CFL debut.
Kevin Fogg also made an impact in his team’s loss, returning a missed field goal for a touchdown and tallying an interception in the end zone late in the game.
After Reilly and the Eskimos couldn’t generate any offence on their opening drive of the game, Streveler hit the field for the first series of his CFL career but the Bombers were forced to a two-and-out.
Edmonton started their ensuing drive deep in their own zone but the reigning MOP showed exactly why he earned that honour last season. Reilly was cool on first-and-10 and aired it out to Walker who ran it 101-yards for game’s first the major score. With Sean Whyte’s point after, the Esks took an early 7-0 lead.
The Esks’ defence kept the momentum on the visiting team’s side as J.C. Sherritt welcomed Streveler to the CFL, picking off the rookie quarterback on the Bombers’ 45-yard line.
Edmonton took advantage of the turnover and scored three points, thanks to a 52-yard field goal from Whyte, to go up 10-0 with just over nine minutes left in the first quarter.
Streveler’s first CFL touchdown pass was to Dressler, who was wide open and ran it into the end zone untouched for the 16-yard major. That score, along with Justin Medlock’s point after, cut the Eskimos lead to 10-7.
However, the Eskimos responded with a touchdown on their own.
Reilly plunged into the end zone as the seconds winded down in the first quarter, adding to his team’s lead and swinging things back into Edmonton’s favour. Reilly orchestrated a drive that covered 69 yards in 10 plays before he called his own number for the one-yard score. Edmonton headed into the second frame with a 17-7 lead.
Both teams were forced to head to the locker room early because of lightning in the area with just over nine minutes left in the first half. After over an hour delay, the rain continued to fall as both squads returned to the field to finish the contest.
A few drives were traded between both teams but only two points were scored, as Justin Medlock conceded a safety to add to the Esks’ lead (19-7).
Streveler put together a 39-yard drive to move down the field and found Adams for the rookie’s second touchdown pass of the night. Adams’ 23-yard score, along with Medlock’s convert, cut Edmonton’s lead to 19-14 with a minute and a half left in the second quarter.
Just after the touchdown, there was more lightning spotted and the game was delayed once again.
Over an hour later, things were back underway at Investors Group Field.
The Eskimos offence was sharp coming back from the break, and moved down the field into field goal range, but after Whyte’s 45-yarder was wide, Fogg returned the miss 110 yards all the way to the house. That score put the Bombers up 20-19 as the first half ended. Because of the weather delays, there was no halftime break and things picked right up away in the third quarter.
Winnipeg kept the momentum rolling after Fogg’s return to start the third, adding to their score on the team’s very next drive.
Streveler continued to impress in his debut, tossing his third touchdown pass of the contest, this time to Wolitarsky for a 20-yard strike adding to the Bombers’ lead. With Medlock’s point after, Winnipeg took a 27-19 lead early in the third quarter.
The Esks cut Winnipeg’s lead with Whyte’s 32-yard field goal to make it 27-22 at the end of the third frame. Winnipeg responded with their own field goal, as Medlock hit his from 34-yards out to add to their lead (30-22).
As the Eskimos were rolling down the field, Fogg made another big play for the Bombers, intercepting Reilly deep in the end zone.
Edmonton wasn’t done just yet.
Reilly moved his offence efficiently down the field and plunged into the end zone for his second sneak of the game. The two-point convert attempt was caught by Nate Behar to tie things up at 30 with 1:22 left in the game.
Whyte then kicked the game-winning field goal with just seconds left on the clock to hold onto the win.
The Edmonton Eskimos head home next week to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats while the Bombers head to Montreal for a tussle with the Alouettes.