Quarterback Mike Reilly wants to ignite Esks’ offence on his return from injury

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EDMONTON — The Calgary Stampeders got a sampling of a healthy Mike Reilly in their Labour Day win over the Edmonton Eskimos. The Stampeders will get the full-on effect in Saturday’s rematch.

Reilly will start at quarterback for the Esks for the first time since tearing ligaments in his left knee in the season opener June 27 in Fort McMurray, Alta. His projected recovery time was said to be 10 to 12 weeks.

Reilly’s knee held up Monday when the 30-year-old relieved James Franklin early in the fourth quarter. His Eskimos trailing by nine points, Reilly was five for 12 passing for 90 yards. He had three carries for 25 yards, including one rush of 15 yards.

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The Stampeders held Edmonton without a touchdown for a 16-7 win. After the game, Calgary head coach John Hufnagel expressed some surprise at Reilly’s sudden appearance.

“I was also surprised to see him so fleet-footed,” Hufnagel said. “Obviously he’s healthy and ready to go.”

Reilly didn’t have any setbacks in practice this week.

“It’s felt good since before the game and really no changes afterward,” the quarterback said Friday at Commonwealth Stadium.

“To get out and get tackled a few times in the game was a good test. The knee passed that test so (I) feel confident about it going from here.”

The Stampeders (8-2) intend to put some distance on their provincial rival atop the CFL’s West Division and extend their winning streak to six games. The Eskimos (6-4) want to stay within striking distance of first place.

“We could be six points back, we could be two points back, so absolutely that is a big difference,” Reilly said earlier this week. “At this point in the season every game is very important, every game against a divisional opponent is important, every game against a divisional opponent your chasing is the most important, right?

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“We didn’t perform so well the last time we played against them, at least on the offensive side of the ball.”

Calgary extended its win streak against Edmonton to 12 in a row dating back to 2011, but Reilly doesn’t believe that record is weighing on his team.

“We can control what’s going to happen in the future, but not what’s happened in the past,” he said.

“A lot of guys weren’t even in the CFL when this streak started. The majority of our team doesn’t really know what it is outside of the questions they get from the media.”

Saturday’s rematch again pits two of the top defences in the league against each other. Neither offence mustered more than 50 net rushing yards Monday.

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“When you have 40-something yards rushing, you’re never happy with where your run game is,” Eskimos head coach Chris Jones said. “We’ve got to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage and giving our running backs an opportunity to get out there and help us win.” 

Calgary hasn’t given up a touchdown in nine quarters and has allowed just one rushing touchdown this season. Stampeders defensive end Charleston Hughes was awarded a third sack after Monday’s win for a league-leading 10.

Edmonton’s offensive line was bolstered this week by the return of Matt O’Donnell, who was released by the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

The six-foot-11 left guard from Comox, B.C., returned to Edmonton where he’s spent the last three seasons and was promptly inserted into Saturday’s starting lineup.

The Stampeders activated rookie receiver Nathan Slaughter from the practice roster for return duties.

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Calgary’s top returner Tim Brown went on the six-game injured list because of a knee injury suffered in Monday’s first half.

The Canadian Press

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