The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Edmonton Eskimos opened the 2016 CFL playoffs with a thrilling game Sunday afternoon at Tim Hortons Field, but it was the defending Grey Cup champions who came out on top, 24-21.
The Cats’ opening possession ended at the Esks 33 yard line when backup QB Jeremiah Masoli was stopped short of a first down on a 3rd and 1.
Mike Reilly then engineered a 12 play, 77 yard drive that ended with a 10 yard touchdown run by Eskimos running back John White.
Hamilton cut Edmonton’s lead to 7-3 when Brett Maher booted a 24 yard field goal.
White scored his second touchdown of the game on a 19 yard run 2:30 into the second quarter and the Eskimos added a single on the ensuing kickoff to make it 15-3.
Maher failed to connect on his second attempt of the game, pushing a 35 yard boot wide right which Shakir Bell returned out of the endzone.
Sean Whyte connected on a 17 yard field goal at the end of the first half to boost Edmonton’s lead to 18-3.
Hamilton came flying out after halftime with an early 2 yard touchdown run by CJ Gable, but Maher missed the extra point, trimming the Esks lead to 18-9.
Edmonton added three more points to their lead when Whyte hit a 42 yard field goal, making it 21-9 Edmonton.
But the Cats came right back with three points of their own when Maher drilled a 24 yarder.
About 10 minutes later, Jeremiah Masoli ran for a one yard touchdown, Zach Collaros hit Brian Tyms for the 2 point conversion, and Maher smoked the ensuing kickoff into the endzone to tie the game 21-21 with 3:52 to play.
With 1:34 to go in the game Edmonton linebacker Kenny Ladler picked off Collaros at the Hamilton 20 yard line.
The Esks replied with a 10 yard field goal by Whyte with 7 seconds left to give Edmonton a 24-21 victory.
The Eskimos move on to Ottawa next Sunday to face the Redblacks in the East Division Final.
It is a rematch of last year’s Grey Cup final, won by Edmonton.