OTTAWA — For a guy who wasn't expected to make the team out of training camp, Lewis Ward has quickly become a fan favourite and a key member of the Ottawa Redblacks' offence.
Ward set a single-season mark for consecutive field goals Saturday to help the Redblacks (8-5) defeat the Edmonton Eskimos (7-6) 28-15.
Ward had four field goals in the first half alone to break the previous benchmark of 32 straight set by Rene Parades in the 2016 season with the Calgary Stampeders. Ward finished the game with seven and has now connected on 37 straight.
"It's a lot of fun being able to contribute to the team the way I have and, obviously, winning football games is the most important, so to be able to do this in front of the home crowd is pretty special," said Ward, who is no stranger to the Ottawa Football scene, having spent five season with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and is the school's all-time points leader.
Parades also holds the overall consecutive record of 39 set between the 2012-13 seasons, also with Calgary.
A late drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Harris to Greg Ellingson at 11:16 of the fourth quarter gave the Redblacks a 25-15 lead after the Ward conversion.
Ward then kicked a 22-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play, giving him 22 points for the game.
Harris completed 23-of-30 passes for 313 yards, while his counterpart Mike Reilly was 27 of 40 for 276 yards. Both had a touchdown pass and an interception.
Eskimos coach Jason Maas said the team had "plenty of opportunities" to win the game, but couldn't execute.
"Give them credit for making plays that they did, but it's definitely not a great feeling. We have to learn quickly and move on," said Maas.
"The opportunities we missed were the difference. You don't need to score 48 every week to say you're playing well. I thought we played well throughout this game, but when it mattered the most we didn't capitalize and they did."
William Powell broke the 1,000-yard rushing barrier as he rushed for 147 yards in the game. His 28-yard run in the first series of the tilt put him over 1,000 for the season. Powell's 1,141 are tops in the CFL ahead of Andrew Harris of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who surpassed 1,000 for the season Friday and sits at 1,028.
It was that 28-yard run by Powell that set up the game's opening score, a 27-yard Ward field goal four minutes into the game.
Field goals of 32 and 20 yards at 3:52 and 13:20, respectively, gave the Redblacks a 9-0 lead before the Eskimos finally got their offence on track,
A pass interference call against the Redblacks gave the Eskimos the ball on the one-yard line and Reilly promptly snuck the ball over the line at 14:22, and following a Sean Whyte conversion the Eskimos trailed 9-7.
Enter Powell, once again though, as he turned in a 33-yard run on the next series setting up a 39-yard field goal from Ward on the last play of the opening half.
Ward gave the Redblacks a 15-7 lead at 5:29 of the third quarter, but the Eskimos tied the game 10 minutes later when Reilly connected with D'haquille Williams on a 22-yard touchdown pass and then teamed up with Bryant Mitchell on the two-point conversion.
Ward restored the Redblacks' lead with a 40-yard field goal at 14:37 of the third quarter.
The win was the second straight for the Redblacks as they head into their third and final bye week of the season.
"It's huge. At this point of the season, the biggest things are momentum and a little bit of rest. We got that out of this game going into the bye week," said Brad Sinopoli, who had 13 catches for 113 yards Saturday.
"It's a good feeling and I think we've had that for a couple of games now, where guys understand the preparation throughout the week and throughout the game the resiliency and grit to make plays when you need to. Hopefully, we can keep that going moving forward."
The Eskimos, who had a bye week, last week, will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Saturday.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press