REGINA – Edmonton’s Tyler Thomas and John White, and Saskatchewan’s Keith Toston will do their best to find holes while plugging them at the same time.
Thomas and White ignited a punchless Eskimos offence Friday night by combining for 153 yards rushing in Edmonton’s 19-14 victory over the host Saskatchewan Roughriders in CFL exhibition action at Mosaic Stadium.
Thomas carried the bulk of the load for Edmonton and registered 96 yards on 12 carries. White added 57 yards along the ground, including a 41-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that gave the visitors a 16-14 advantage.
Hugh Charles, in his seventh season in the CFL, is the lone veteran on the Eskimos’ depth chart in the backfield. Charles had two catches on Friday for 13 yards.
“It has been a crazy ride for us during training camp,” said White, who added one catch for 22 yards. “It’s a friendly competition with all of us. I want Tyler to do well, I want Hugh to do well and I want to do well.
“Ball out – that’s all we have to do.”
It was the Eskimos’ backups that spurred Friday’s second-half comeback. Second-string quarterback Matt Nichols threw for 155 yards, most of which came in Edmonton’s 14-point third quarter. Nichols, the backup to starter Mike Reilly, found Adarius Bowman for a 20-yard touchdown strike and later handed off to White for his long touchdown burst.
Thomas showed his versatility the previous week when he led the Eskimos in rushing with 24 yards and tacked on 38 yards on three receptions.
Eskimos head coach Chris Jones wouldn’t tip his cap to which running back has the inside edge for the starting job.
“(Thomas) was hanging on to the football,” Jones deadpanned. “We’ll find out in a few days (who our starter will be).”
CFL teams have to make final cuts before 10 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.
Toston finds himself in a similar position as his Eskimos’ counterparts. He’s battling Anthony Allen and Jermaine Thomas for the Riders’ No. 1 running back spot. With the departure of Kory Sheets to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, the defending Grey Cup champions have a big hole to fill in the backfield this season.
Toston’s 67 yards rushing on seven carries Friday night helped his cause in that tight race. Allen had 39 yards along the ground on 10 carries and Thomas was held to eight yards.
“At this point, we have all battled as brothers for this job,” Toston said. “Whoever is blessed with the opportunity to be that number one guy is going to ride with it and I’m sure the next man will cheer him on.”
Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin hinted the job might be one accomplished by committee.
“I think there’s still something that needs to be proven at that spot,” he said.
Darian Durant looked sharp for the Riders. He was 7-for-11 passing for 113 yards and two touchdowns, both to Taj Smith. Reilly completed nine of 15 pass attempts for 60 yards.
Edmonton opens the regular season in B.C., while Saskatchewan will play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 28.
© The Canadian Press, 2014