Season over: Ticats fall to Esks in East Semi-Final

Sean Whyte kicked a field goal with under 10 seconds to play as the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 24-21 in the East Semi-Final on Sunday.

Hamilton stormed back from a 15-point halftime deficit but the winning points were set up by a late interception by Hamilton’s Zach Collaros, coming one play after CFL command centre denied a Ticats’ challenge for roughing the passer.

The open minutes of the football game were perfect allegory for the Ticats’ season. A promising opening drive was thwarted by a questionable spot and failed third-and-short-conversion, leading to a turnover. The defence were then undone by shoddy tackling, untimely penalties and, of course, an injury: Canadian safety Courtney Stephen left with what looked like a shoulder issue. The Eskimos chewed up over seven minutes of clock into the wind, scored a touchdown and took an early 7-0 lead.

The Ticats had plenty of other opportunities in the opening 30 minutes. They scored on their next possession but settled for a field goal when Zach Collaros missed a wide open Junior Collins in the end zone. A blocked punt by Terrell Davis set up the offence in Edmonton territory but came away with nothing after Brett Maher missed a 37-yard field goal. There were drops and a complete inability to get the running game going.

The Eskimos, meanwhile, ran the ball with impunity in the opening 30 minutes. Running back John White racked up 83 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.

As the half wound down Hamilton head coach Austin elected to punt instead of going for it on third and a long one. After a short kick and a no yards penalty, they gained 11 yards on the transaction. Edmonton moved into field goal range and took a 18-3 lead into the break. The boo birds were out.

Hamilton opened the third with a two-and-out followed by a nice drive of their own, Collaros moving the offence 59 yards in eight plays and capping it with a two-yard C.J. Gable touchdown run. Maher missed the convert.

A 42-yard Sean Whyte field goal extended the Eskimo lead, but the Ticats replied with three of their own, the big play coming off a 46-yard pass from Jeremiah Masoli – in as part of a change-of-pace package – to Spencer Watt. Maher connected from 24 and the home side trailed by nine early in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Mike Reilly went down with an injury on the next Edmonton drive, drilled as he ran for a first down. Back up James Franklin ran two plays and the Eskimos punted.

Hamilton special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold dialled up another only-in-the-CFL moment, calling an on-side punt on third-and-22 Jermaine Robinson recovered and the Ticats took advantage, Masoli punching it in three plays later.

The Ticats went for two, got it, then Maher booted the kickoff 85 yards into the Edmonton end zone for a single.

Tie game at 21.

With Reilly still on the bench, Edmonton moved the ball into Hamilton territory but were forced to punt and Hamilton took over on their own 14-yard line.

Then, controversy: the Ticats were called for holding but challenged roughing the passer, only to be denied by the CFL command centre. On the next play, Collaros threw an interception that set up the winning points.

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