CFL: Eskimos look to build off first win

The Edmonton Eskimos are in a rebuild. 

Yes, that dreaded word nobody wants to hear and nobody wants to say.  Last week in Guelph, Eskimos general manager used the dreaded “R” word to describe his football team when announcing the signing of head coach Kavis Reed to a contract extension.

“Most people don’t like hearing the word or using the word but sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself, and the people who are listening and coming to the games and have them understand that this is a rebuilding year for this club and we are trying to build for sustainable success,” Hervey explained.

The Eskimos fell flat in their first test of the season at home, losing handily to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  The latest test was last week in Guelph, the temporary home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. 

It started off bad as Hugh Charles bobbled the opening kickoff and you wondered if the Eskimos would start battling those negative thoughts and emotions. 

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Instead the Eskimos shook off the early blunder and Charles ripped off a 70-yard run for a touchdown in the team’s 30-20 win.

Charles would finish the game with 119 rushing yards, 27 passing yards, and 59 return yards for a total of 205 all purpose yards.  He was named the CFL’s Offensive Player of the Week.  Charles says he and the team didn’t panic after his early blunder.

“At the beginning, I think that fumble put a spark in me to do well and I answered the call,” Charles said. 

“In this game, you have to have a short-term memory and not dwell on the past.  My mom always told me ‘through each adversity there is a great benefit’ and it was just a little bit of adversity that I went through and I fixed it right away with that long run and continued with the rest of the game.”

The young, rebuilding team showed poise starting with their starting quarterback Mike Reilly.  In a rain that resembled biblical proportions, Reilly simply managed the game very well.

He didn’t turn the ball over.  He only passed for 130 yards, 129 less than the previous week but his quarterback rating was 110.0 compared to the high-forties vs. Saskatchewan a week earlier. 

The defence, which is supposed to be the strength of the team, set the tone early with two sacks by Odell Willis on the same drive.  They forced turnovers, one of which led to a key touchdown by Charles in the third quarter. 

Most of all, the Eskimos showed character after a crushing loss to Saskatchewan in their season and home opener. 

It’s hard to predict what a young team will give you week after week.  The hope is you won’t see a lackluster performance as was witnessed in Week 1.  Hervey says you don’t really know what you’ll get from a rebuilding team.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we had another game or two like the first one and not to say that they are going to play poorly all year but young football teams experience that,” Hervey said. 

“As long as you see all 60-plus guys in the locker room paying attention to the head coach, all working hard to get better, why would you want to disrupt that?”

The next step for the Eskimos is a home-and-home set against the BC Lions which begins Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.  A team the Green and Gold have only beaten once in their last six tries.  Lions running back Andrew Harris has been dominant against the Eskimos over the last two seasons.

Hervey, meanwhile, is staying away from the quick fix.  He’s endeavoring to build a young core that will last for the next few years.

Hervey is not afraid to use the word “rebuild.”  Hopefully the fan base won’t object to using the word “patience.”

NOTES: Defensive end Marcus Howard is out with an undisclosed injury, Brandon Lang will start in his place.  Slotback Fred Stamps didn’t practice with the team this week still nursing a lower-body injury.  The expectation late in the week was that Stamps will play vs. the Lions.  Receiver Shamawd Chambers and defensive lineman Almondo Sewell will return to the lineup after a one-game absence.  Linebacker Rennie Curran and defensive end Justin Capicciotti will see their first action of the season.  Kavis Reed says injured slotback Adarius Bowman will begin practicing soon but is still not close to a return from a knee injury.  Bowman is currently on the nine-game injured list.


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