CFL Pass

Shutout over Argonauts a case of divine interception for Eskimos pair

Call it a case of divine interception.

While it might not exactly have been a miracle on turf, a couple of Edmonton Eskimos have given cause to believe in a higher pigskin power.

One week after having an interception taken away by penalty flags against teammates in a disappointing loss to the Montreal Alouettes, both safety Jordan Hoover and cornerback Josh Johnson got them right back last week to help keep the Toronto Argonauts off the scoreboard on the way to a 26-0 win.

“I guess if you believe in the football gods and they owe you one, I think that’s redemption right there,” said Hoover, who picked off a Dakota Prukop pass at the end of the third quarter. “It’s credit to the guys up front and underneath me, they’re the ones playing the coverages and getting towards the quarterback and forcing a tough throw and funneling it to me.

“I’m free out there, I’m just making reads and trying to do my best to help my teammates out. The way I see it, all I did was jump and catch a ball, it happened right at the snap with everybody else.”

But the way his teammates saw it was a different story.

After coming up with his first Canadian Football League interception, the six-foot-two, 190-pound Waterloo product immediately found himself at the bottom of a dog pile of exuberant Eskimos.

“When someone like Hoover, who was drafted here in Edmonton — I think he’s played every game since he’s been in Edmonton but one, and that one we had to force him off to give him some rest and get him back in — he’s worked his way into the starting role and worked hard for it,” Eskimos head coach Jason Maas said of the 26-year-old native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who was drafted in the fourth round (31st overall) in 2017. “To be a starter in this league is awesome and it’s well deserved by him, and I think his teammates just recognize that, how much work he’s put in and what a great teammate he is.

“I think they are all great teammates, but you get excited for a guy like that who’s done it the right way, been brought up in our organization and makes an impactful play like that. And it was a great play, to boot. It wasn’t very easy. Just making the catch is one thing, but he turned it into a 29-yard gain, as well.”

One negated interception righted is no big deal. But to have both players come up with one that counted after being robbed a week earlier is almost enough to make you believe there was intelligent design at work.

“I do, man,” said Johnson, whose first interception as a member of the Eskimos also came against Prukop in the second half, to go along with a team-high five tackles, including one for a loss, and two pass knockdowns. “Like I told Hoover and Money Hunter last week, there was just a reason for them taking away our picks last week. I told them just keep playing ball, keep being a ball hawk and the ball will come back in your hands.

“Just be willing to make the play.”

Johnson almost had an interception earlier in the game, diving to get his hands on a ball that would have gone for a touchdown with former Eskimos standout receiver Derel Walker having a step on the defender.

And when he came up with one on the next opportunity, Johnson knew exactly what he was going to do with it.

“I told my son, D.J., earlier I was going to get him a pick and I was going to throw him the ball,” said Johnson, who returned his interception 17 yards. “So once I got my pick, I was just so excited. It just felt great to me.”

Aside from just leading to a victory, the interceptions — along with a third from Hunter — helped the Eskimos shut out the opposition for the first time since Sept. 27, 2014, in a 24-0 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The previous shutout came came 11 years earlier against a Calgary Stampeders squad they will face in the 2019 season’s first instalment of the CFL’s Battle of Alberta on Saturday at McMahon Stadium (5 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

In and out: Not practising Tuesday were LS Ryan King, CB Josh Johnson, LB Jonathon Walton and LB Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, while WR Greg Ellingson left early … RB C.J. Gable and WR DaVaris Daniels are both in off the one-game injured list … The Eskimos added American LB D.J. Calhoun, who was cut at the end of training camp, and former Saskatchewan Roughriders DB Bryce Bartlett, a Canadian, to their practice squad.


On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge