Eskimos trounce Lions for playoff berth
Quarterback Ricky Ray ran for two touchdowns and passed for another Friday, to lead the Edmonton Eskimos to a 45-13 victory over the B.C. Lions and a CFL playoff berth.
Ray completed a four-yard pass to Efrem Hill as Edmonton scored two quick touchdowns at the end of the first half to take a commanding 24-13 lead.
Arkee Whitlock, who rushed for more than 160 yards, had touchdown runs of 13 and 15 yards.
Calvin McCarty scored the season-high fifth rushing TD for the Eskimos in the fourth quarter as many in crowd of 31,515 were heading for the exits.
The Lions, meanwhile, were in danger of running out of quarterbacks as starter Casey Printers injured a thumb and Buck Pierce re-injured his shoulder.
That left third-stringer Zac Champion, the fifth quarterback to appear for the Lions this injury-plagued season, to run the offence.
Martell Mallett scored B.C.'s only touchdown while Paul McCallum had two field goals. Noel Prefontaine booted a field goal for Edmonton.
The Eskimos (9-9) beat the Lions for the first time in three games this season to finish third in the West Division.
They won't know their playoff opponent until Saturday when the Calgary Stampeders and the Roughriders meet in the showdown in Saskatchewan for first place in the West.
The Eskimos will travel to play the loser of that game in the Nov. 15 West semifinal but the 8-10 Lions must wait until Sunday before their playoff fate is known.
B.C. could be in Hamilton for the East Division semifinal as a crossover team and the No. 3 seed in the East if the Tiger-Cats beat the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg.
Printers left the game early in the first quarter when he hurt the thumb scrambling in the B.C. backfield.
Pierce was injured late in the second quarter when he was stopped on a third-down sneak on the Lions 46 yard line. He returned briefly in the second half but gave way to Champion.
The defensive stop on Pierce led to the second of two Eskimo touchdowns in one minute 37 seconds at the end of the half.
A 62-yard Skylar Green kickoff return to the B.C. 36-yard line was followed by a 21-yard Whitlock burst up the middle and a one-yard plunge for the touchdown by Ray.
On the ensuing series, the Lions needed about a foot on third down at their own 46 but Pierce was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
Ray threw a 41-yard strike to Jason Barnes then found Hill on a four-yard second-down pass for Edmonton's third TD with 16 seconds remaining in the half.
The veteran pivot increased the margin to 31-13 early in the third quarter with his second TD plunge. A 37-yard completion to Fred Stamps and a 28-yard Whitlock run led to the score.
The Eskimos took a 7-3 first-quarter lead on a drive where Ray completed five consecutive passes and Whitlock ran for 45 yards on five carries, the final one 13 yards to the end zone.
The Lions led 13-7 in the second quarter after a 73-yard kickoff return by Ryan Grice-Mullen gave Pierce a first down at the Edmonton 24 yard line and Mallett scored on a five-yard run.
Safety Barron Miles set up McCallum's first field goal with his league-leading eighth interception which tied him with Larry Highbaugh for second all-time with 66 picks.