EDMONTON — Trevor Harris isn’t giving nearly as much thought to facing his former team when the Ottawa Redblacks come calling at Commonwealth Stadium Friday as he is to finding a way to help his Edmonton Eskimos regain a measure of consistency and string some wins together.
After wins over Montreal and B.C. to start the season, the Eskimos have gone loss-win-loss-win-loss, including a 24-18 defeat against the Calgary Stampeders last Saturday to sit at 4-3 in a tight West Division. The Eskimos need a bounce-back game and to put an end to the one step forward, one step back stretch they’re on.
That’s the focus for Harris, no matter who the opponent is.
“There’s obviously something to it with you guys,” Harris said about facing Ottawa for the first time since signing in Edmonton. “You guys write the stories and that kind of stuff, but I’m an Eskimo, man.
“I feel like I’m embedded in this culture and this city and there’s never been a more important time in my football career than right now.”
A slow start that saw the Eskimos fall behind 9-0 and generate just 78 yards of offence in the first half — and special teams that allowed 275 return yards, including a 103-kick-off return by Terry Williams for a touchdown — was the difference in Calgary.
“It we had the answer, we’d do it every game,” coach Jason Maas said when asked about getting his offence, defence and special teams firing at the same time. “Ultimately, it’s a process.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, it doesn’t happen overnight, but you expect as the year goes on and day by day, guys will continue to get better, so that one day it will hit, where we’re all playing better for longer together.”
While the offence got rolling in the second half in Calgary — Harris finished with 373 yards passing and the Eskimos put up 401 yards of net offence — Edmonton can’t afford to play from behind against Ottawa. The Redblacks come in at 3-4 and on a high after a 30-27 overtime win against Montreal.
“It’s all about finishing drives,” Harris said. “It’s been, you know, one thing here, one thing there. Myself making mistakes along with everybody on the offence.
“We’ve just got to band together and understand this is a team game. We’re all in this together and 12 (players) operating as one unit is really what we’re going for. Once we do that, the sky is the limit for this group.”
The constant for Edmonton has been a stingy defence. The Eskimos lead the league with 18 points and 232.6 net yards allowed per game – no other team is under 300 yards – as well as in quarterback sacks with 26 and first downs allowed with 108.
“Our defence is killing it,” said former Redblack Greg Ellingson, back in Edmonton’s receiving corps from the one-game injured list. “If they can keep it up, get us the ball back and let us dominate the time of possession, we have a good group on offence.
“We have a lot of plays. We have a quick tempo and we have playmakers, so we’ve just got to do what we know we can do.”
OTTAWA REDBLACKS (3-4) at EDMONTON ESKIMOS (4-3)
Friday, Commonwealth Stadium
FLASHBACK — Ottawa’s last win in Edmonton was a 45-37 OT decision June 25, 2016. In that game, Harris came on in relief of Henry Burris with the Redblacks trailing 21-14 in the third quarter. He went 17-for-19 for 292 yards and three touchdowns, including a 12-yard toss to Brad Sinopoli to decide it.
DEDMON RUNNING — DeVonte Dedmon was the story in Ottawa’s win over Montreal. Dedmon set a franchise record with 377 yards of combined kick return yardage, including a 111-yard kick-off return for a touchdown and a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown as the Redblacks snapped a four-game losing streak.
STILL STREAKING — Ottawa’s Lewis Ward faces the Eskimos with a CFL record streak of 67 consecutive field goals on the go. Ward went three-for-three against Montreal. He tied the game late in regulation with a 30-yarder and then won it in overtime with a 14-yard chip shot.
MR. JONES — Kick return specialist Christion Jones, obtained from the Saskatchewan Roughriders Monday for receiver Kenny Stafford, will be in Edmonton’s line-up. Jones, 26, will take the place of injured Martese Jackson.
BACK IN — Linebacker Don Unamba and cornerback Anthony Orange return to Edmonton’s line-up from the six-game IL.