The Edmonton Eskimos hung on to beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 29-26 Friday night in what many believe was a first round playoff preview.
Zach Collaros engineered a stellar opening drive, going 69 yards on seven plays, that ended with CJ Gable powering his way across the goal line for a six yard touchdown run.
On Hamilton’s next possession Brett Maher drilled a 41 yard field goal to extend the Cats’ lead to 10-0.
The Esks came back with a touchdown of their own when Mike Reilly tossed a 22 yard strike to Derel Walker, however kicker Sean Whyte was wide right on the extra point attempt.
Maher’s 28 yard field goal attempt to open the second quarter sailed wide right and gave the Cats an 11-6 edge.
After Junior Collins fumbled and Edmonton’s Neil King recovered the ball at the Hamilton 35 yard line, Whyte booted a 17 yard field goal to make it 11-9.
Tiger-Cats receiver Andy Fantuz was forced to leave the game midway through the second quarter when he suffered a left knee injury.
Word is he will miss the remainder of the season with a suspected torn ACL.
Whyte gave 9-and-8 Edmonton its first lead of the game, 12-11, after connecting on a 19 yard field goal.
4:15 into the second half, Whyte hit a 43 yarder to extend Edmonton’s lead to 15-11.
Ticats halfback Derrius Brooks was taken off the field on a stretcher early in the third period after he collided with teammate Dominique Ellis, but he was able to move his arms and legs as the training staff helped stabilize Brooks.
On the very next play, Esks QB Mike Reilly put his team up 22-11 midway through the third frame with a one yard touchdown plunge.
Reilly and Walker teamed up on a 7 yard major 2:29 into the fourth quarter to stretch Edmonton’s lead to 29-11.
With 8:06 remaining in regulation the Cats got on the board for the first time since the 39 second mark of the second quarter when Collaros tossed a one yard touchdown to Terrence Toliver.
Collaros found Kevin Elliott in the endzone on the two point conversion to make it 29-19 Edmonton.
Jeremiah Masoli ran for a one yard TD to make it 29-26 with 1:09 to play but that’s as close as the Tiger-Cats would come.
7-and-10 Hamilton closes out the regular season Saturday November 5 against the Montreal Alouettes.