The Trevor Harris era in Edmonton started on a positive note.
Kenny Stafford reeled in a pair of touchdown passes from Harris as the new-look Eskimos survived a scare to begin the season with a 32-25 victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday.
“You don’t ever want games to come down to that at the end, but when they do, it feels great to come out with a victory,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas.
“When your backs are up against it and you need to make plays, guys did that tonight.”
Harris, who made his debut as the replacement for Mike Reilly as Eskimos quarterback, was 32 for 41 for 447 yards and made three TD passes in addition to running one in himself.
“He was lights out, if you ask me,” Maas said. “He did everything he needed to do as a leader on the offence and, as a quarterback, running our offence. He was on top of everything, he was on his game tonight and he had a lot of help.”
Harris said there is still work to be done.
“We hurt ourselves with some penalties and turnovers, but overall, you get a win and you want to celebrate that,” he said. “But there’s a lot of things we did to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
There were plenty of positives despite the loss in the eyes of Als interim head coach Khari Jones. Jones was coaching his first game after replacing Mike Sherman, who parted ways with the organization a week before the season started.
“We had our chances,” Jones said. “It was a good job getting the game to a tie, we just kind of started a bit too late. I wish we would have started a little earlier in that third quarter and things might have been different.
“We just have to start the same way that we finished this game and we are going to be OK.”
After Montreal (0-1) conceded a safety on its first possession, Edmonton (1-0) came close to adding to its lead, only to see Ricky Collins Jr., fumble the ball away at the Alouettes’ five-yard-line, with the turnover going to Marcus Cromartie.
A punt return fumble recovery by Montreal’s Boseko Lokombo would lead to an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Antonio Pipkin to DeVier Posey and a 7-2 Alouettes lead.
The Eskimos finally got their act together midway through the second with a long drive capped off by a 27-yard TD pass from Harris to Stafford.
Montreal responded with a single on a missed field goal by Boris Bede before Edmonton took a 16-8 lead into the half on a 10-yard TD pass from Harris to Stafford.
The Als conceded another safety midway through the third prior to Pipkin getting injured and helped off the field with Vernon Adams coming in as his replacement.
Edmonton added to its lead to start the fourth with a 23-yard TD pass from Harris to CJ Gable.
Montreal responded quickly with a five-yard TD run by William Stanback and then kept the comeback underway midway through the final frame on a 17-yard TD pass from Adams to BJ Cunningham to make it 25-22.
Bede then tied the game with a 52-yard field goal with 2:18 remaining,
However, the Eskimos came marching back and regained the lead with a one-yard TD from Harris with just over a minute to play and got a huge Anthony Orange interception to secure the victory.
The Edmonton Eskimos host Mike Reilly and the B.C. Lions next Friday, while Montreal has a bye before heading to Hamilton on June 28.
Notes: The Eskimos honoured former receiver and four-time CFL All-Star Fred Stamps, who signed a one-day contract in the off-season to officially retire as a member of the team.