What a difference a season makes. After these two teams met to end the CFL season in 2015, both the Ottawa Redblacks and Edmonton Eskimos met again to renew hostilities and open their respective 2016 CFL seasons. Coming into the game there were storylines aplenty. Jason Maas replaced Chris Jones behind the Edmonton sideline against the team that he was a part of the coaching last season.
The game began with some distinctly CFL scoring moments, with Edmonton getting a 1-0 lead on a single. Arnaud Gascon Nadon later sacked Mike Reilly, the Grey Cup MVP, for a safety which gave the Redblacks a 2-1 lead. (The two cities’ NHL teams – Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers – had a hilarious twitter feud over the low scoring at the beginning of the game)
A Chris Milo single had Ottawa up 3-1 come the end of the first quarter.
In the second, a Sean Whyte field goal gave the Eskimos a 4-3 lead. It wasn’t until with just three minutes to go in the second quarter that Henry Burris finally got the Redblacks their first major score of the game. Whyte found Kienan Lafrance on a four yard touchdown pass. He then successfully completed a 2-point conversion to Ernest Jackson to give Ottawa an 11-4 lead. Not to be outdone, Grey Cup MVP Mike Reilly then led his team down the field on a spirited drive that ended with a 27 yard touchdown to John White. After the conversion the game was tied at 11-11. Chris Milo added a field goal just before half time to give the Redblacks a 14-11 lead.
Things may have started slow in this game but did it ever pick up in the second half of the game.
A few minutes into the third quarter, Ottawa were attempting a standard punt that went completely haywire. Defensive end Reuben Frank hustled in and blocked the Chris Milo punt, it deflected far behind him and towards the end zone for the scoop and score in his first ever CFL game. After the convert, the Eskimos led 18-14.
Another Sean Whyte field goal had Edmonton up 21-14 until what appeared to be disaster struck Ottawa. Henry Burris was sacked and it immediately looked as though he had injured his throwing hand. The Redblacks picked up one of the CFL’s great young quarterbacks in Trevor Harris over the off-season, who did a valiant job of filling in for Ricky Ray during his injury plagued season last year in Toronto. He went quickly to work for his new team, finding Chris Williams on a 71 yard catch and run touchdown on the very next play. After the convert the game was tied at 21-21.
After stifling Edmonton’s next possession, the Redblacks went right back to work on their next drive. Harris found Chris Williams again for a 37 yard touchdown catch and run play, and Chris Milo drove it through the uprights yet again for a 28-21 lead for the Redblacks. Sean Whyte added a field goal just before the end of the quarter to cut into the Ottawa lead at 28-24.
To start the fourth quarter the teams exchanged field goals. First Milo for Ottawa to make it 31-24 and then Sean Whyte for Edmonton to make the score 31-27.
Edmonton drove down the field, desperate to get a touchdown, and were rewarded by a John White two yard touchdown run that, coupled with the convert, made it 34-34 all.
Edmonton looked on their way to victory when Sean Whyte added another field goal to make it a 37-34 lead for the Edmonton Eskimos – but the Redblacks were not to be denied on this day. They furiously drove down the field to get into the kicking range of Chris Milo, and did do just in the nick of time. Chris Milo’s field goal attempt sailed through the uprights with just one second remaining on the clock to send this crazy game to overtime.
In the CFL’s first overtime game of the season the Redblacks had the first possession. Ottawa came out flying in overtime. Trevor Harris showed his passing prowess as he soon found Brad Sinopoli in the end zone and, as per CFL overtime rules, he successfully converted for two points on a pass to Greg Ellingson.
All the pressure was now on Edmonton to respond, but their game ended in an incomplete pass attempt to Nate Coehoorn. The Ottawa Redblacks came out on top in this highly exciting and highly convincing win, avenging their loss in the 2015 Grey Cup game.
With this win Ottawa showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the East as they try to show that last year was no fluke. For the Eskimos, they need to throw this game in the rear-view mirror and not let this turn into a Grey Cup hangover of sorts.
Ottawa play on June 30 in Montreal at 7pm EST. The Eskimos head into a bye week to lick their wounds and find a way to get that first win of the season.