Eskimos knock out Mike Reilly & the Lions, Edmonton clinches playoff spot

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Everyone knew B.C. had to keep Mike Reilly healthy for any chance at the playoffs in 2019.

Just as the Lions were surging — four straight wins — towards an improbable postseason spot, the club’s dreams were dashed when Jovan Santos-Knox drove Reilly into the Commonwealth Stadium turf and broke his left wrist in the process. The game and B.C.’s season were done in one play.

Edmonton took advantage of their opponent’s misfortune and ensured themselves a ticket to the playoffs after watching from home in 2018. Using a strong defensive effort and enough offence the Eskimos earned a 19-6 win.

The Esks held the Lions to less than 200 yards (185) of total offence and allowed just two field goals. Middle linebacker Larry Dean and defensive back Money Hunter led the way with five tackles each, while strong side linebacker Don Unamba recorded four tackles, two sacks and forced one fumble. It was an impressive effort from Phillip Lolley’s defensive group.

Over on offence, two receivers eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the 2019 season. Greg Ellingson made six catches for 133 yards for his fifth straight 1,000-yard campaign. Ricky Collins Jr. had four grabs for 26 yards and went over the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time in his four years in the CFL. Logan Kilgore was pulling the trigger for the Eskimos, completing 18-of-29 passes for 194 yards and one interception.

Trevor Harris had a hoodie on and watched from the sidelines. If it was a playoff game, Harris, who led the league in passing yardage before his throwing arm injury, would have put the pads on. That means Harris is close to being healthy enough to return to the field. But because Edmonton won and know the postseason is assured, the Eskimos can be careful with Harris and don’t need to rush him back into the lineup.

Shaquille Cooper started at running back for Edmonton in place of C.J. Gable and once again provided a playmaking element. Cooper carried the ball 18 times for 94 yards (5.2 yards per rush) and one touchdown. Every time Cooper has been used by the Eskimos, he’s seized the opportunity. He has all the makings of a dynamic back for years to come in the CFL.

Jason Maas’ group still has discipline issues. Edmonton was flagged for a season-high 170 yards on 14 infractions. The Eskimos won’t be able to compete with the elite teams in the league in a sudden death situation committing that many correctable errors which give up valuable yardage.

With Reilly in street clothes on the sideline, Danny O’Brien was relatively ineffective. He managed 12 completions on 23 attempts (52 per cent) for 103 yards and one interception. O’Brien targeted the league’s leading receiver Bryan Burnham eight times, but many were off the mark as Burnham had just two catches for 29 yards.

Edmonton has a bye week to rest and recover prior to a home-and-home set with Saskatchewan which finishes the regular schedule. The Eskimos will the crossover team, visiting the Montreal Alouettes is this year’s East Semi-Final.