Eskimos know Friday’s game against Stampeders is a ‘must-win’ situation to reach post-season
Edmonton Eskimo Marcus Henry is tackled by Hamilton Tiger Cat Armando Murillo during first quarter Canadian Football League game action in Edmonton on October 5, 2012.
Photograph by: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - Backs against the wall. Do or die. Win and you’re in. This is the final week of the regular season in the Canadian Football League, but it’s not unfamiliar territory for the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Eskimos (7-10) need a Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-11) loss on Thursday against the Argonauts in Toronto or a win on Friday at Commonwealth Stadium against the Calgary Stampeders to guarantee themselves a playoff spot, whether it’s as a crossover into the East Division, or as the third-seed in the West Division. The latter outcome would result from the Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-9) losing to the B.C. Lions in Vancouver on Saturday, paired with an Edmonton win against Calgary.
While the Eskimos are on a two-game slide and their season could rest on them defeating a team that has beaten them three times this year, the picture isn’t entirely bleak. Edmonton has faced pressure, adversity and scrutiny since training camp opened back in late May.
Consider the firestorm that’s surrounded the Eskimos all year and rained down upon it at times. Their quarterbacks — Steven Jyles, Kerry Joseph and Matt Nichols — have been blazingly scrutinized all year in the wake of the Ricky Ray trade to the Argonauts.
The Eskimos went through a five-game losing streak, going winless in September for the first time in franchise history and managed to get the season back on track enough to stay in the playoff hunt. In that stretch, they’ve survived offensive co-ordinator Marcus Crandell moving to quarterbacks coach, survived head coach Kavis Reed assuming offensive co-ordinator duties and worked in offensive adviser David Kelly as well.
For all of that negative turmoil they’ve seen, one more week of win-or-it-really-hits-the-fan tones shouldn’t faze the Eskimos now.
Eskimos linebacker J.C. Sherritt — a gleaming bright spot in a season that has been mostly covered by dark clouds — said he’s not looking for any help from Hamilton this week.
“You have to think of it as a must win,” he said. “You don’t want to count on anyone else. The way we’re going to look at it is (that) it’s in our hands still. One more game, it’s in our hands. We have the opportunity to win and go to the playoffs. That’s all we’re thinking about.”
“There’s no time to feel sorry for yourselves or anything, everyone knows it’s win or go home,” Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps said in the visitors locker-room at Molson Stadium on Sunday in Montreal. “On the plane ride home people might as well start watching film because you know, it’s go time.”
Joseph will start on Friday, despite the strong rally that Nichols led in the final 10 minutes of the game in Montreal, where he got the team back from 16 points down to within a two-point conversion away from forcing overtime.
“(Calgary) is where our mindset has to be,” Joseph said. “We still control our own destiny. We have to win Friday night. We’re at home. We just have to make it happen.”
The Eskimos didn’t seem to care too much about the moral victories that came from Sunday’s loss, whether it was Nichols’ shining ability or players going into the record books. Sherritt had four tackles in the game, bumping him to 119 this year, which moved him past Willie Pless (117) for the team record for tackles in a season.
“It’s an honour (to set the record), but it’s so tough with a loss,” Sherritt said.
“It puts things in perspective because who cares if you’re setting records if you’re not winning championships?
“Nobody in the long term cares about records; they care about championships, especially in Edmonton and that’s how I am and that’s how it is where I’m from, they think the same thing.
“I don’t want to sound disrespectful,” Sherritt added. “It is an honour, but you know, we’ve got to win a championship.”
Championships don’t come from moral victories and there’s no such thing as the moral playoffs (where Edmonton, Hamilton and Winnipeg might rule the roost).
Win and you’re in. Win and the heat dials down. Win and the Eskimos take a semblance of control of their season, which is skidding off of the tracks again.
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