With both the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Edmonton Eskimos struggling this season, one team was bound to win when the two met at Commonwealth Stadium Friday night.
And although the victory was narrow, it belonged to the Tiger-Cats.
Greg Ellingson reeled in a pair of Henry Burris TD passes as Hamilton held on to snap a two-game losing skid with a 30-29 victory over the Edmonton in a battle between two of the CFL’s cellar-dwellers.
The Tiger-Cats (2-4) also broke a nine-game road losing streak extending back into last season.
Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said it was nice to see his team rewarded with a win after some hard work.
“We’re getting better as a football team,” he said. “As you improve you need to get some traction and that traction comes with a victory. It would be disheartening if the improvement we have been showing right now wasn’t rewarded. The victory helped to solidify the improvement process we are experiencing right now.”
Burris said he is accustomed to playing some nail-biters in Edmonton.
“That’s a typical game up here,” the quarterback said. “I’m used to these from my days in Calgary and Saskatchewan and Labour Day Classics and such. They always seem to go down to the wire. It’s never an easy place to come into and get a victory. Both teams needed this win going into the bye to get some momentum and some justification for all the work we have put in and everything we have gone through in this locker room with so many guys on the injured list.
“Only a few people probably thought we could come up here and get it done, but we’ve been seeing a steady improvement in our team week in and week out.”
The Eskimos dropped to 1-5 and are 0-3 to start the season at home for the first time since the construction of Commonwealth Stadium.
“It’s very disheartening. Disappointing. There are a lot of emotions right now,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “To put ourselves in a position again to only come up short. And that’s the way our season’s been going so far, and its a big and bitter pill to swallow.”
“We have to put ourselves in a situation where it doesn’t come down to the last play.”
It was the 45th one-point loss in Eskimos history.
Edmonton took a 3-0 lead six minutes in on a Grant Shaw field goal, coming on the heels of an Aaron Grymes interception on Hamilton’s opening drive.
The Tiger-Cats responded with a 17-yard Luca Congi field goal on their next possession.
The offensive attacks continued at a snail’s pace as the next scoring play was another Shaw field goal four minutes into the second quarter to make it 6-3 Edmonton.
Hamilton finally got things going midway through the second frame as C.J. Gable scored on an eight-yard touchdown run to put the Tabbies up 10-6.
The Tiger-Cats kept the momentum and capitalized on another long drive as Burris had time to connect with Ellingson for a 17-yard passing touchdown with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter to make it 17-6.
A large contingent of frustrated Edmonton fans booed their team off the field at the half.
Hamilton conceded a safety early in the third quarter to pull Edmonton to within nine points.
Congi got those points back with a 38-yard field goal with five minutes left in the third quarter to put the Tiger-Cats up 20-8.
Edmonton finally found its way into the end zone with a minute left in the third quarter.
A 37-yard passing play from Mike Reilly to Fred Stamps set up a five-yard pitch from backup quarterback Kerry Joseph to Hugh Charles, who scampered across the goal line to make it 20-15 heading into the fourth.
The Tiger-Cats responded just two minutes into the fourth as Burris rifled a 17-yard pass to Ellingson for his second touchdown of the game and a 27-15 Hamilton lead.
Edmonton battled back to remain in the game with five minutes left as a 35-yard passing play to Cary Koch set up a seven-yard TD pass from Reilly to a leaping Marcus Henry to make it 27-22.
The Tiger-Cats kicked a field goal to give themselves an important cushion with two minutes left, making it 30-22.
Edmonton came flying back as a 40-yard passing play to Koch led to a three-yard passing play from Joseph to Calvin McCarthy with 1:24 remaining. The Eskimos attempted a two-point convert to tie the game but running back Jon White dropped a pass from Joseph.
Hamilton attempted a passing play on second down with under 30 seconds left and were unable to run out the clock. The Eskimos got the ball back to midfield, but Shaw’s 50-yard field goal try came up short, giving the Tiger-Cats the single-point victory.
Both teams will now take a breather with their bye weeks. The Ticats return to the field on Aug. 16 in Winnipeg, while the Eskimos won’t play until Aug. 18 in Toronto.
Notes: It was the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams... Edmonton won the previous game 30-20 in Week 2 in Guelph The Eskimos came into the contest with an impressive 30-11-0 record at home against the Tiger-Cats and had a six game home winning streak against the Tabbies going back to 2006...Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris made his 174th career regular season start, owning a 18-12 record in 30 previous career starts against the Eskimos Edmonton and Hamilton entered the contest tied for the fewest points scored in the league, each with just 99 points.... The Hamilton defence has now gone all six games this season without recording an interception... The Ticats lost 97 man games due to injury in their first five games, using 69 different players with only 20 seeing action in every game... It was military appreciation night in Edmonton, with fans given the option of purchasing an extra ticket for a member of the Canadian military when they purchased their season tickets... The announced attendance was 31,006.