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Some big off-season decisions await Eskimos

Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris opens a door with the Commonwealth Stadium field reflected off the glass, on his way to speak to the media after their season ended in the Eastern Finals Sunday losing to Hamilton, in Edmonton, November 18, 2019.
Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris opens a door with the Commonwealth Stadium field reflected off the glass, on his way to speak to the media after their season ended in the Eastern Finals Sunday losing to Hamilton, in Edmonton, November 18, 2019.

Barely 24 hours removed from Sunday’s season-ending loss in the East Division final, the Edmonton Eskimos had returned home to clear out their locker stalls and close the final chapter on a 2019 run that saw them fall one win shy of reaching the Grey Cup final.

“It’s still fresh, we’re disappointed,” said Eskimos general manager Brock Sunderland. “You go into a final game where, like every other team, you know that this is a possibility. But we expected to be packing for Calgary. That’s not taking away from Hamilton. They’re phenomenal and you know, the 16-3 now for a reason, but we believe in ourselves.

“So every time you go into a game like that your focus is on getting to the next step. We didn’t. We haven’t been in Edmonton for even 24 hours yet, so, disappointment more than anything. It was a very up and down year, as you guys know, and it was special in the sense of during the adversity, everybody stuck together so well. That was really special and I’m very proud of that.

Of course, there will be some big off-season questions that need to be answered once Sunderland has a chance to catch his breath, not the least of which is the future of his head coach, Jason Maas, who has been the subject of much public scrutiny since missing playoffs last season.

“Like every other end of the season, we’re going to sit down and do our due diligence and do exit interviews with players,” Sunderland said. “Jason and I are going to meet and we’re going to roll their sleeves up and get on the same page and go from there.”

ARM’S RACE

If Trevor Harris could go back and change one thing about his first season as Edmonton Eskimos quarterback, he would have simply chosen to have more of it.

“I wish I wouldn’t have got hurt and had a serious arm injury, but I’m not one to question God’s plans,” said the quarterback, who suffered an injury to his throwing arm in a game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Aug. 23.

He finished the game and played through it in the Labour Day Classic the following week, before being pulled one quarter into the rematch as the injury got progressively worse while affecting his throwing motion more and more.

He ended up missing five of the last six games to close out the regular season, after helping the Eskimos to a 6-3 first half where he was on pace for most-outstanding-player-type numbers.

“I wish that wasn’t God’s plan for me, but it was,” said Harris, who still finished second overall with 4,027 passing yards and a league-high 343 completions, despite playing just 13 games, while also earning the best interception percentage of 1.3. “I grew from it, I learned from it  and it’s one of those deals where I’m going to do everything in my power to be as injury-preventable as possible next year.

“And I promise you next year you’ll get the best version of myself.”

CRUISE CONTROL

Consensus says the Ticats are favourites to win Sunday’s Grey Cup against the Bombers, which, to provide a snappy name, might as well be called the Hundred Years Bowl, because that seems like about how long it’s been since either team won a championship.

OK, it’s actually been 20 years for Hamilton and 29 for Winnipeg, so it adds up to more like the Half-a-Hundred Years Bowl. But the point stands.

One of these teams will end a drought and the other will be left way, way back of the pack all alone.

But what is it about the Tabbies’ torrid season that has them firmly in the driver’s seat and on cruise control here in the playoffs?

“There’s a number of things that stand out about them,” Maas said. “I mean, they’re just so well coached, they do it the right way. They play physical, they play fast, they’ve got athletes all over the place. They’ve got great schemes and they’ve got great players. So they’re 9-0 (at home), 15-3 for a reason. They’ve found ways to win, too.”

And if Hamilton wins again Sunday, the Eskimos can at least say they fell to the best there was this year.

In and out: The final injury to report for the Eskimos 2019 season saw RB Shaq Cooper, who was forced from Sunday’s divisional final with what the club called a lower-body injury, moving about the locker-room Monday on a rolling walker with his leg in an air cast.

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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