Hall says first season as CFL head coach had its ups and down

EDMONTON — Given all the twists and turns, it was fitting Richie Hall emerged from the Edmonton Eskimos dressing room on garbage bag day Monday and characterized his first season as a CFL head coach as a roller-coaster ride.

EDMONTON — Given all the twists and turns, it was fitting Richie Hall emerged from the Edmonton Eskimos dressing room on garbage bag day Monday and characterized his first season as a CFL head coach as a roller-coaster ride.

With a revamped defence, the mid-season firing of offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman and a timely two-game winning streak that got the 9-9 Eskimos into the playoffs, it was a ride that ended in a 24-21 loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division semi-final Sunday.

“What was consistent about our offence and our football team was our inconsistency,” Hall said. “Whether it was early in the year or late in the year, we seemed to be kind of on a roller-coaster.”

After 15 seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, including the last eight as defensive co-ordinator, Hall’s first season as the man calling the shots in Edmonton was a mixed bag from start to finish.

“It’s discouraging but it’s encouraging because we did fight until the very end,” Hall said.

“I’m very proud of them. They have nothing to hang their heads about. They made it a fun year for me. Within that fun, there was adverse situations we had to overcome, but, at the end of the day, I look back and I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”

With the Esks coming off a 10-8 record and a crossover playoff berth in 2008 under Danny Maciocia, Hall won his CFL debut as the Eskimos edged Winnipeg 19-17 at Commonwealth Stadium.

The win was costly, however, as running back Jesse Lumsden, Edmonton’s big off-season acquisition, suffered a shoulder injury 14 minutes into the game that would require surgery and end his season.

“I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to be back on the field next year better than I’ve ever been before,” Lumsden said.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes. That’s the only way I can really put it into words. It’s so frustrating when you invest in something you love so much and it’s just out of reach for you to be a part of it.”

Even without Lumsden and fielding a defence with eight new starters, the Eskimos got off to a 5-4 start. Then, during a stretch in which Worman was fired and replaced by Kevin Strasser, the Esks went on a 2-5 slide before beating Toronto and B.C. to earn a ticket to the West semi-final against the Stampeders.

“Offensively, we just weren’t consistent enough throughout the year,” said quarterback Ricky Ray. “We had a few games where we just didn’t play well, didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”

Ray led the CFL with 4,916 passing yards and threw for 22 touchdowns. Fred Stamps led the league with 1,402 yards on 85 receptions and was the only Edmonton receiver to crack the 1,000-yard plateau.

Stamps, offensive lineman Calvin Armstrong and defensive lineman Dario Romero were named to the West Division all-star team.

“We have a lot of good players and good coaches in this locker-room,” Ray said. “Hopefully, we can have a lot of them back.

“There’s always change. Everybody is getting evaluated. There’s going to be some spots where coaches and management thinks there needs to be upgrades. With that said, it’s always nice to have a sore group of guys coming back and being the leaders.”

Rookie Arkee Whitlock overcame a nightmarish debut in Montreal July 9 — he dropped two passes in the end zone, fumbled once and had a pass bounce off him for an interception in a 50-16 drubbing by the Alouettes — to finish third in rushing with 1,293 yards as a fill-in for Lumsden.

“I’m proud of the team for sticking together. We’ve been through at lot this year,” said Whitlock. “We had coaching changes and things like that and everybody stuck together as a team.

“Hopefully, we get a lot of guys coming back. We have a purpose. I’m proud of what happened and proud to be an Eskimo.”

As is the case when every season ends, the team that packed up and said its goodbyes Monday will look different when training camp opens next season. That, the record aside, is inevitable.

“There’s always going to be changes,” Hall said. “Whether we were Grey Cup champions or bowed out in the first round, there’s going to be changes.

“What the changes are, I can’t speculate at this time. We have to sit down and evaluate, starting today, how we can be better next year. We have to be better next year.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed vaccine uptake and the COVID-19 situation in the province Tuesday. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
Red Deer down to 817 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports 1,449 new cases

Red Deer Rebels goalie Chase Coward tries to find a loose puck during WHL action at the Centrium earlier this season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Changes on the horizon for Red Deer Rebels next season

New coach, roster adjustments among top priorities for Sutter this offseason

Renovations and construction have begun at Red Deer Dream Centre. (Photo contributed)
Renovations underway at Red Deer Dream Centre

Christian-based addictions treatment centre

Red Deer County's municipal planning commission gave approval for a new directional sign for a business located near Elnora.
(Image from Red Deer County)
Red Deer County garden centre and winery gets sign approved

Delidais Estate Winery and DA Gardens is located near Elnora

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer County approves home-based hair salon

Salon would be located in rural residential area just west of Innisfail

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Labour Minister Harry Bains arrives at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, June 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. pledges to introduce permanent paid sick leave program in January

B.C. pledges to introduce permanent paid sick leave program in January

In this June 8, 2017, file photo, fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St. Ignace, Mich., as Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Mackinaw City, Mich. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Dale G Young/Detroit News via AP, File
‘Massive and potentially permanent disruption’: Canada’s bleak view of Line 5 closure

‘Massive and potentially permanent disruption’: Canada’s bleak view of Line 5 closure

A Suncor logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, May 2, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Oilsands producer Suncor and utility Atco to pursue ‘world-class’ hydrogen project

Oilsands producer Suncor and utility Atco to pursue ‘world-class’ hydrogen project

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
North American stock markets rally to pare early losses over inflation concerns

North American stock markets rally to pare early losses over inflation concerns

This photo provided by World Food Prize shows Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted.  On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, Thilsted was named this year's recipient of the $250,000 World Food Prize, which was created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize researchers who have improved the quality and availability of food. (Finn Thilsted/World Food Prize via AP)
World Food Prize goes to nutrition expert for fish research

World Food Prize goes to nutrition expert for fish research

FILE - Norman Lloyd, executive producer of Hollywood Theater, a series of high-class dramatic shows seen on affiliated stations on the Public Broadcasting Service, poses for a photo on Dec. 26, 1974, in Los Angeles. Lloyd, the distinguished stage and screen actor known for his role as a kindly doctor on TV's "St. Elsewhere," has died at 106. Manager Marion Rosenberg said the actor died Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at his home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/George Brich, File)
‘Saboteur,’ ‘St. Elsewhere’ star Norman Lloyd dies at 106

‘Saboteur,’ ‘St. Elsewhere’ star Norman Lloyd dies at 106

A Palestinian man inspects the rubble of a partially destroyed residential building after it was hit by Israeli missile strikes, at the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, early Tuesday, May. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Israel, Hamas trade deadly fire as confrontation escalates

Israel, Hamas trade deadly fire as confrontation escalates

Heidi Illingworth, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, takes part in an interview at her office in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Watchdog worries federal benefit for parents of missing, murdered kids going unused

OTTAWA — The federal ombudsman for victims of crime says she remains… Continue reading

Most Read