Eskimos 31 Tiger Cats 30
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Eskimos have been displaying a flair for the dramatic of late.
On the heels of their 38-35 come-from-behind win over Calgary two weeks ago, Noel Prefontaine kicked a clutch field goal in the final minute and Arkee Whitlock scored three touchdowns as Edmonton rallied to defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-30 on Saturday night.
With the win, the Eskimos reclaimed first place in the CFL’s West Division
“This team never panics,” Whitlock said. “We have faced adversity, we’ve been down a lot, but we have always fought back. I think we have played some of the best fourth-quarter football in the league this year.
“We still have to do a better job of playing the whole 60 minutes. But as a team we fought through it and we came out with the victory.”
Trailing 30-21 late in the fourth, Edmonton cut into the lead with six and a half minutes remaining. Whitlock followed up on a 48-yard pass from Ricky Ray to Fred Stamps with his third TD of the game, running the ball in from nine yards out to make it 30-28.
Edmonton got the ball back and with just under a minute left to set up Prefontaine’s 49-yard field goal to give the Eskimos their first lead of the game.
Eskimos defensive back Jonte Buhl sealed win with Edmonton’s second interception of the season with 15 seconds to go.
Prefontaine said pressure situations are what kicking in the CFL is all about.
“I’ve always felt that that is where a kicker earns his money,” he said. “I’m just happy I made it.”
It was the second win in a row for the Eskimos (5-3), who moved two points ahead of Saskatchewan and Calgary for the West lead.
“It was one of those games you almost hate to see a loser but better them than us,” said Edmonton head coach Richie Hall.
“It came down to the last play and we came up with the stop. We just kept battling out there. We just never gave up. There is a lot of good character in that room.”
Hamilton (4-4) has lost two in a row and remains in second in the East Division, two points up on Winnipeg.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “The effort to win it was there and the opportunity to win it was there.”
Edmonton was stopped on its first possession, failing to convert on a short third-down gamble and turned the ball over on their own 45. It let to a Hamilton major just one play later as Tiger-Cats quarterback Kevin Glenn aired it deep to Arland Bruce III for an early 7-0 advantage.
The Eskimos next possession also resulted in a turnover as Ray was intercepted by Hamilton’s Jykine Bradley at the Edmonton 44.
That would lead to another Bruce touchdown as he took a Glenn dump pass and hustled 29 yards into the end zone for his second of the game and a 14-point Hamilton lead before the 10 minute mark.
Edmonton finally got on the board late in first with a scoring drive capped off when Whitlock bounced off a pair of defenders and rambled 14 yards for the major.
Hamilton put a bit of padding on its lead early in the second quarter on a punt single and subsequent 42-yard field goal from Nicholas Setta before Prefontaine responded with a 37-yard three-pointer to make it 18-10.
Hamilton had a chance to go up by 15 on a pass into the end zone to newcomer Drisan James, but he dropped the pass, forcing the Ticats to accept another field goal and a 21-10 lead.
Ray hit Whitlock with a short pass late in the second for a 14-yard major.
Hamilton looked poised for more in the final minute but the Eskimos picked a good time for their first pick of the entire season as Bobby Keyes intercepted Glenn at the Edmonton seven and took it back 67 yards.
Prior to Edmonton’s first interception there had been 78 others in the league, including seven by B.C.’s Ryan Phillips alone.