It’s been more 56 years since the Edmonton Eskimos have seen a start to the season like this one.
Mike Reilly scored a pair of touchdowns and passed for two more as the Eskimos remained the only undefeated team in the CFL with a 33-28 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday. It is the first time the Eskimos have been 6-0 since 1961.
“It was another gritty, gutsy win,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “It came down to the end again and we were very fortunate to come out of that with a positive.
“I give them a lot of credit. They battled all night against us.”
Reilly completed 29-of-38 passes for 317 yards.
“I think we made it a lot harder on ourselves in the fourth quarter of that game,” he said. “But on the flipside of it, our defence stood tall and got the stop at the very end and we battled through more injuries tonight.”
Hamilton has still yet to win a game this year, falling to 0-6.
“It’s as close as we have been to a win this year,” said Ticats receiver Luke Tasker. “We battled a team that is undefeated right down to the stretch. We can take some good away, but we still have a pretty bad taste in our mouths.”
Edmonton started the scoring midway through the first quarter after using its only challenge to successfully earn a pass interference call in the end zone, leading to a one-yard quarterback sneak touchdown by Reilly. The convert kick was wide.
Hamilton bounced back just over a minute later as QB Zack Collaros found receiver Damarr Aultman _ playing his first CFL game _ for a 46-yard passing TD. The Ticats added a two-point convert pass to Luke Tasker to take an 8-6 lead.
The Eskimos regained the lead with 23 seconds left in the opening frame, as Reilly completed a 36-yard TD pass to Bryant Mitchell.
Hamilton responded with a 27-yard Sergio Castillo field goal.
Edmonton made it 20-11 with just over two minutes to play in the first half as Reilly called his own number for a five-yard TD run. The Esks added a 25-yard Hugh O’Neill field goal before halftime.
O’Neill kicked a 35-yarder five minutes into the third to make it 26-11 for Edmonton, but Hamilton responded with a seven-yard TD pass from Collaros to Brandon Banks.
The Ticats then closed to within five points with a 47-yard Castillo field goal late in the third.
The Eskimos padded their lead four minutes into the second on a 15-yard TD pass from Reilly to Vidal Hazelton.
Edmonton fumbled the ball away on its on 17 with just over two minutes to play, eventually leading to a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders.
It got dicey at the end as the Eskimos turned the ball over at midfield on a third-down gamble with 42 seconds left, but Hamilton was unable to take advantage.
The Eskimos travel to Ottawa next Thursday, while the Tiger-Cats host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Saturday.
Notes: The Eskimos came into the game with 18 players on the six-game injured list, including the likes of running backs John White and Travon Van, receiver Adarius Bowman, linebacker J.C. Sherritt and kicker Sean Whyte. They then went on to lose LB Doug Parrish, OL Justin Sorensen and WR Brandon Zylstra to injuries in the first half? The Ticats came into the contest with just five offensive TDs on the season and averaging just 18 points a game.