WINNIPEG — The City of Champions is once again just that. The Edmonton Eskimos won its first CFL title since 2005 by beating the Ottawa Redblacks 26-20 in the 103rd Grey Cup presented by Shaw on Sunday.
A celebratory rally will be held Tuesday at noon in Churchill Square outside Edmonton’s city hall.
The Eskimos’ 14th Grey Cup in franchise history though didn’t come easy as Edmonton had to dig out of an early 13-point deficit.
“We just kept believing and kept fighting,” said Eskimos’ quarterback Mike Reilly.
“It wasn’t pretty early. It rarely is with us. We kept believing in each other, kept battling and good things happened. We knew that would happen.”
The Redblacks stormed out of the gate with back-to-back touchdowns before Edmonton’s offence walked onto the field. Ottawa capped off a seven play, 73-yard opening-game drive with a Henry Burris to Patrick Lavoie three-yard touchdown catch. Ottawa then added another major just a few minutes later after the Eskimos fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Ernest Jackson hauled in a seven-yard Burris pass to put the Redblacks up 13-0 a little more than six minutes into the game. Ottawa missed its one-point convert attempt.
Any momentum the RedBlacks had was snuffed out late in the first quarter when Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris was intercepted while up 13-3. The Eskimos transformed the turnover into a touchdown with Adarius Bowman capping off the drive with a 23-yard touchdown catch to bring Edmonton within three points.
“There’s always been interceptions in games but we’ve always found a way to overcome it,” said RedBlacks quarterback Henry Burris.
“We were in the same situation but just didn’t get it done. Edmonton made plays. That was the bottom line right there.”
Reilly gave his team its first lead with just 12 seconds left in the first half when he connected with Akeem Shavers for a two-yard touchdown. Edmonton headed into halftime up 17-16 after failing to capitalize on its two-point convert attempt.
The Eskimos’ touchdown was the only major of the second quarter. Edmonton also added a rouge in the frame while Ottawa had a 26-yard field goal from Chris Milo.
The Redblacks sat in front 19-18 following three quarters of play thanks to a 33-yard Chris Milo field goal.
Edmonton took back the lead for the final time with less than four minutes left in the game as Jordan Lynch broke into the endzone with a one-yard quarterback sneak. The Eskimos added a two-point convert following the touchdown.
Reilly was named the Shaw Most Valuable Player after completing 21 of 35 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Toronto born and Edmonton receiver Shamawd Chambers takes home the Most Valuable Canadian award for his two catch and 49 yard performance.
“This is a dream come true,” said Chambers.
“To win it at this level is the best feeling in the world.”
The Eskimos were considered the favourites prior to kickoff, having beaten the Redblacks four times over the last two seasons.
American rock band Fall Out Boy entertained the sold-out crowd of 36,634 at Investors Group Field during halftime. Nine-time Canadian Country Music Association-award winner Dean Brody kicked off the party with a pre-game show mid-field.
The temperature at the opening kick-off was -5 C but felt more like -10 C with the windchill.