Ticats claw out a last-second win over Eskimos

Once again, Jeremiah Masoli did it to the Edmonton Eskimos.

Masoli threw for a season-high 419 yards and a touchdown on Thursday night to rally the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a thrilling 25-24 home victory over Edmonton. Lirim Hajrullahu clinched the win with a 29-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

That gave Hamilton (4-6) a second win in as many games versus Edmonton (6-4) this season. Masoli threw for 332 yards and three TDs in the Ticats’ season-opening 38-21 road win over the Eskimos in June.

“Man, that was a big win for us emotionally for the team overall,” Masoli said. “We’ve got great men of character, that just showed it right there who we are.

“We’ve been in games like that and been down and come back only to fall short at the end. Just to prove it to ourselves against a really good team.”

The Eskimos took a 24-13 lead into the fourth but Masoli’s 84-yard completion to Mike Jones put the Ticats at the Edmonton 21. That set up Hajrullahu’s 28-yard field goal at 9:38 that cut Hamilton’s deficit to 24-16.

Masoli hit Luke Tasker with a 51-yard touchdown pass on third-and-2 at 12:23 to pull Hamilton to within 24-22 as the two-point convert was unsuccessful. It came a play after a wide-open Jones dropped a sure TD pass and made a missed Hajrullahu 41-yard field goal earlier in the quarter loom large.

With 1:32 remaining, Masoli took over at Hamilton’s 38-yard line and moved the Ticats to the Edmonton 21, where Hajruallhu had a final chance to make up for his earlier miss. With the game on the line, the veteran kicker connected.

And Masoli, who finished 27-of-44 passing and added 27 yards rushing on five carries, was able to celebrate an improbable win despite twice putting passes off the goalpost.

“I don’t even want to talk about it,” he said. “I’m ready to go out there and cut the field goal posts down right now.

“It’s ridiculous.”

That left Hamilton coach June Jones pondering what could’ve been.

“Man, how about that,” he said. “Have you ever seen that twice in a game?

“Both guys were open too. We overcame a whole bunch of adversity and it wasn’t one guy. It was definitely a team effort.”

Tasker had nine catches for 156 yards – both game highs – with the crucial TD. Jones finished with 117 yards on four receptions while Alex Green ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

But receiver Chris Williams suffered an apparent Achilles injury.

Hamilton was coming off a 29-23 road loss to Winnipeg on Aug. 10 and improved to 4-9 following a bye week since 2011. The Ticats are now 2-2 at home, to the delight the Tim Hortons Field gathering of 23,281 and stand second in the East, two points ahead of Toronto (3-5), which faces Montreal (1-8) on Friday.

Edmonton remains second in the West Division, two points behind Calgary (7-1), which plays Winnipeg (5-4) on Saturday. The Eskimos did all of their damage offensively in the second quarter, thanks in large part to three Mike Reilly TD passes.

Reilly’s 17-yard strike to Derel Walker at 14:48 staked the Eskimos to a 24-10 half-time lead and was set up by Josh Woodman’s interception. The drive was also aided by a 39-yard pass interference penalty against Hamilton’s Mariel Cooper.

Hamilton committed three first-half turnovers (two interceptions, fumble). Edmonton converted two into TDs, prompting the Ticats’ faithful to boo their team off the field to end the half.

Reilly used his legs and arm to put Edmonton ahead 17-10 at 12:33. After scrambling to elude the pass rush, Reilly found D’haquille Williams downfield for a 95-yard touchdown.

Williams, flagged for objectionable conduct last week against Montreal for his TD celebration, sat in the end zone with teammates and played hot potato with the ball. Afterwards, Natey Adjei grabbed a television microphone and began interviewing Williams.

Earlier on Thursday, the CFL announced it was relaxing its policy on end zone celebrations and allowing players to use on-field props.

“We didn’t play well enough in the second half,” said Edmonton head coach Jason Maas. “We’ve got to figure it out.

“We’ve got to play a better 60 minutes of football. Our offence didn’t stay on the field long enough, (we) just didn’t make enough plays to win it.”

Reilly finished 15-of-25 passing for 250 yards and the three TDs. C.J. Gable ran for 81 yards on eight carries against his former team while Williams had three catches for 116 yards.

Walker had four catches for 59 yards and two TDs. Sean Whyte booted three converts and a field goal.

Hajruallhu finished with four field goals and a convert.

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