Edmonton Eskimos’ Brandon Zylstra, left, makes a reception behind the coverage of B.C. Lions’ Anthony Thompson late during the second half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, June 24, 2017. It’s only the sixth week of the regular season but there’s a lot riding on Friday night’s game between the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Harris, Redblacks get a second shot at handing Eskimos their first loss

Trevor Harris and the Ottawa Redblacks will get a second shot at doing what no other team in the CFL has this season: beat the Edmonton Eskimos.

Edmonton (6-0) visits Ottawa (1-5-1) on Thursday night coming off a 33-28 home win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The hard-luck Redblacks lost a 33-30 home decision to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Justin Medlock’s 38-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

That’s been the story this season for the defending Grey Cup champions, whose five losses have been by a combined 13 points. That includes a 23-21 setback in Edmonton on July 14.

In that game, Harris found Joshua Stangby with a touchdown strike with under 30 seconds remaining to cut Edmonton’s lead to 23-21. But the Redblacks couldn’t secure the two-point convert to force overtime.

Harris finished 27-of-39 passing for 263 yards and two TDs versus Winnipeg. But quarterback Matt Nichols drove the Bombers’ offence 33 yards in three plays to set up Medlock’s game-winning boot.

Harris is the CFL’s second-leading passer with 2,202 yards and is tops with 14 TD strikes. Ottawa’s Greg Ellingson remains the CFL’s top receiver with 702 yards on 44 catches with four TDs while Canadian Brad Sinopoli has stands fourth with 47 receptions for 538 yards and three touchdowns.

Edmonton is 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 1961 and is doing it with a depleted roster. The Eskimos’ six-game injured list includes all-star receiver Adarius Bowman, Canadian linebacker Cory Greenwood, offensive linemen Simeon Rottier and Colin Kelly, kicker Sean Whyte and linebacker J.C. Sherrit.

And against Hamilton, leading receiver Brandon Zylstra and centre Justin Sorensen were both injured.

But a constant is quarterback Mike Reilly, who stands fourth overall in passing yards (1,945) and third in touchdowns (11). He’s the glue keeping Edmonton’s offence together.

Defensively, linebacker Kenny Ladler has a team-high 33 tackles with three interceptions while speedy end Odell Willis is tied for third overall in sacks with five.

Edmonton has turned winning close games into an art form this year. The Eskimos’ six victories have been by a combined 28 points, and that includes a 12-point victory over the B.C. Lions.

But given their mounting injured list, the Eskimos could be primed for their first loss of the year.

Prediction: Ottawa.

Toronto Argonauts versus Montreal Alouettes (Friday night)

Toronto (3-4) is coming off a 41-24 home loss to Calgary, a game starter Ricky Ray left in the second half with a shoulder injury. Ray is listed as day-to-day and could play. If not, mobile backup Cody Fajardo would get the start. Argos coach Marc Trestman and receiver S.J. Green will face their former team for the first time. Montreal (2-4) is coming off the bye, having not played since blowing a late 12-point lead in a 41-40 loss to Winnipeg.

Prediction: Montreal.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Saturday night)

Winnipeg (4-2) has mounted late comebacks to win its last two games versus Montreal and Ottawa, respectively. Nichols threw for 319 yards and a TD last week against the Redblacks but the Bombers needed six field goals from Medlock to capture the victory. Hamilton (0-6) remains the CFL’s lone winless team but played Edmonton tough following an embarrassing 60-1 loss to Calgary the week before. Assistant head coach June Jones will have the week to provide his thoughts on how to help the Ticats.

Prediction: Winnipeg.

B.C. Lions versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Saturday night)

B.C. (5-2) looks to sweep the home-and-home series after last week’s 30-15 home victory. Travis Lulay threw for 338 yards and a TD while Bryan Burnham posted five receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Chris Williams had three catches for 75 yards in his Lions debut. Kevin Glenn was 19-of-27 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns but it was Canadian Brandon Bridge who threw two TD passes for the Riders (2-4). Saskatchewan is 2-1 at home but 0-3 versus West Division teams.

Prediction: B.C.

Last week: 3-1.

Overall: 22-6-1.


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