From 4-14 to 14-4.
A win in that game will not only reverse their dismal record from just two seasons ago, when they hit rock bottom, it will also see the Eskimos clinch first in the West for the first time since 2003 and earn a bye into the division final. That is contingent on the 2-14 Roughriders not scoring an upset over the 12-5 Stampeders on Saturday. Should that happen, the Eskimos will go into Sunday’s game with the West locked up.
Edmonton’s showing this season is a vast improvement over the recent years of struggle.
It is, as veteran linebacker J.C. Sherritt put it this week, “a situation you dream about, fighting for first place, having a shot at the ultimate goal,” the Grey Cup that has eluded Edmonton since 2005.
A win Sunday will go a long ways towards erasing the memories of that 2013 season that led then rookie general manager Ed Hervey to clean out the coaching staff and bring in a new crew headed by coach Chris Jones and begin a transformation of his player roster.
“I feel like this is a whole other team, there’s no comparison (to 2013),” said veteran receiver Adarius Bowman. “There’s a few guys who have been around but as a whole a lot has changed. The coaching staff, a lot of new players. But we do have a great opportunity in front of us right now … .first place, and we could clinch home-field advantage for the West final so that’s a great opportunity for us.
“We’ve been working all year and I feel we deserve it, but we have to understand Montreal is in a position where they’re trying to get into the playoffs so we definitely have to honour that they’re a good team.”
The 6-10 Alouettes are in a fight with B.C. and Winnipeg for a playoff spot.
The Eskimos finished 12-6 last year. Despite that turnaround, they still failed to overcome what has become their biggest hurdle in the West, the Stampeders. For 12 straight games over four years the Stampeders had owned the Eskimos, until Sept. 12 when quarterback Mike Reilly, back after missing most of the season with a knee injury, engineered a 27-16 Edmonton win.
Since then, the Eskimos have added six more victories, including a 15-10 win over Calgary on Oct. 10 that finally put the team in control of its own destiny.
“We all realize what kind of game it is,” offensive lineman Simeon Rottier said of Sunday. “These games have been like this since we beat Calgary in the sense that we needed to keep winning to guarantee first. The mindset has been the same (since then) and everyone is pretty excited about what we have been doing.”
What they’ve been doing in finding ways to win in spite of an inconsistent offence. In five of their seven straight wins they have needed a strong defence and fourth-quarter offensive rallies to get the victories. That, said Bowman, has become kind of the team’s motto _ finish the fourth.
“We’ve been pretty good at it this year in terms of game to game so let’s put it all together and finish (the season),” he said. “The guys do understand what we have ahead of us. We’re all pros here. We just happened we put ourselves in a better position than other teams, but it`s not over yet, one game left.
“We’re had a little success but now we`re near the final part so let just finish.”