Saturday, July 25, 2009

Edmonton mounts improbable comeback to beat Riders

Down 22 points early in the second quarter and on the heels of two straight embarrassing losses, the Edmonton Eskimos scored 38 of the next 49 points to defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 38-33 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina Saturday.

The Riders had the sell-out crowd of 30,945 on their feet early, as Tad Kornegay stole the ball on an Edmonton punt return. 3 plays later, Darian Durant flipped the ball in the left flat to Wes Cates, who scored from 4 yards out. Luca Congi kicked the convert, then Jamie Boreham got a single on the kickoff, putting Saskatchewan up 8-0 4:19 into the game. On the Eskimos next possession, Ricky Ray was intercepted by Lance Frazier, who ran it back 70 yards for the major score. Congi's convert put the Riders up 15-0, a lead they would increase early in the second quarter, as Durant capped an 11 play, 92 yard drive with an 18 yard touchdown run. Congi converted with just 1:55 gone in the second quarter, to give Saskatchewan a 22-0 lead.

Edmonton Coach Richie Hall, who spent 20 seasons in Regina as a player and coach before becoming the Head Coach of the Eskimos at the start of this season, rallied his team and turned things around. Noel Prefontaine kicked a 16 yard field goal, Calvin McCarty ran the ball 37 yards for a major score with Prefontaine converting. Congi got 3 back with a 27 yard field goal, before Prefontaine added a 42 yard field goal, cutting the Rider lead to 25-13 at the half.

Prefontaine made it 25-16 with a 34 yard field goal with 9:33 remaining in the third. Then, after forcing Saskatchewan to punt, Tristan Jackson scored on a 75 yard punt return. Prefontaine's convert cut the Rider lead to 25-20, with 8:05 to go in quarter number three. Calvin McCarty would then cap a 7 play, 47 yard drive with a 2 yard scoring plunge. Prefontaine converted again, putting Edmonton on top for the first time in the game, 30 to 25.

The Regina Boys would regain the lead in the 4th. After a Jason Clermont 33 yard reception ended the third quarter, Weston Dressler was interfered with in the end zone, giving Saskatchewan the ball, 1st and goal at the Eskimo 1. Chris Cazrka powered in from there on the first play of the fourth. The Riders went for two and failed, but got a second chance thanks to an Edmonton penalty. Durant was able to make the most of the opportunity, hitting Andy Fantuz in the left corner of the end zone, putting Saskatchewan back on top at 33-30, with just 49 seconds gone in the final period. The Riders forced the Eskimos into a 2-and-out, but were pinned deep in their own end after the punt. They failed to pick up a first down and elected to give up the safety touch, with Boreham running the ball out of the back of the end zone with 11:29 to go reducing their lead to one, at 33-32. Edmonton scored the winning points on the ensuing possession. They ran the kick back to their own 54, then scored eight plays later on an Arkee Whitlock 18 yard run. The Esks failed on the two-point conversion with just over eight minutes remaining, but held on from there for the 38-33 comeback win, clinching the win when Dressler couldn't hold a third down pass that would have given Saskatchewan a fresh set of downs with just over a minute to go.

Ricky Ray started slow but finished strong for Edmonton, completing 23 of 32 passes for 247 yards, while beining intercepted once. Calvin McCarty rushed 9 times for 76 yards with two majors, while Arkee Whitlock added 63 yards on 13 carries to go with his winning touchdown. Noel Prefontaine had a huge game, scoring 12 points on 3 field goals and 3 converts. For the Riders, Darian Durant was 20 of 36 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing. Wes Cates added a receiving touchdown, while Chris Czarka scored a rushing major and Lance Frazier scored on an interception return. Luca Congi had a fairly quiet day with a field goal and 3 converts for 6 points.

Edmonton, now 2-2 and in a three-way tie for first in the West with Calgary and Saskatchewan, hosts the 4-0 Montreal Alouettes on Thursday, July 30th. The Riders, who have now lost two straight after starting the season with two wins, travels to Calgary to meet the defending Grey Cup champion Stampeders on Saturday, August 1st. Kickoff is set for 9:00pm EDT. The live broadcast, with Rod Pedersen and Carm Carteri calling the plays, starts at 8:00pm EDT and can be heard at

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