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This article was published 14/6/2018 (957 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Thursday night’s game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the visiting Edmonton Eskimos was the earliest start to a regular season in Canadian Football League history. Mother Nature, not to be outdone, tried her best to make it the longest game, too.

With 8:41 left in the second quarter and the Eskimos leading the Bombers 17-7, a weather delay was put into effect by officials as dark clouds loomed over Investors Group Field. Just moments later the lightning came, accompanied with a heavy downpour. The match was officially given a timeout at 8:32 p.m., forcing fans to retreat to safety, with many heading to the exits.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Dedicated Blue Bomber fans cling to their seats in pouring rain after a game delay due to lightning put a stop to play against Edmonton's Eskimos Thursday evening.  - June 14, 2018

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Dedicated Blue Bomber fans cling to their seats in pouring rain after a game delay due to lightning put a stop to play against Edmonton's Eskimos Thursday evening. - June 14, 2018

It was the fifth time in the last three seasons the Bombers have had a game delayed due to weather — and the fourth time at home. During the 2016 season, lightning struck in the season opener and then in back-to-back weeks. Just once in 2017 did a game go longer than expected, with the game extended by 20 minutes due to heavy rain, in a Week 14 matchup against the Ottawa Redblacks at IGF.

In 2016, against the Montreal Alouettes at home in Week 1, the game was postponed for an hour. In a Week 6 matchup in Edmonton, the game was stopped with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter, with the delay lasting 30 minutes. The following week at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the game had a 2½-hour delay. 

On Thursday, the first delay lasted 84 minutes, with both teams finally stepping back onto the field at 9:45 p.m. By the time play restarted with the Eskimos resuming their drive at midfield, it was just before 10 p.m. Edmonton’s drive stalled and a punt pinned the Bombers deep into their zone, leading to a surrendered safety and a 19-7 edge for the visitors.

Winnipeg rallied later in the second quarter, with rookie quarterback Chris Streveler finding Darvin Adams in the end zone on a 23-yard pass. Streveler was making his CFL debut after incumbent Matt Nichols suffered a right knee injury that is expected to keep him out four to six weeks. A successful one-point convert by kicker Justin Medlock cut the Eskimos’ lead to 19-14.

But any momentum gained from the touchdown drive was lost after a second weather delay was called with 1:24 to go before half.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Edmonton Eskimo #87 Derel Walker goes down at the hands of Winnipeg Blue Bomber #94 Jackson Jeffcoat when play resumed after a weather delay Thursday at Ivestor's Group Field.  - June 14, 2018

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Edmonton Eskimo #87 Derel Walker goes down at the hands of Winnipeg Blue Bomber #94 Jackson Jeffcoat when play resumed after a weather delay Thursday at Ivestor's Group Field. - June 14, 2018

The Eskimos opened the scoring with a bang, with quarterback Mike Reilly, the league’s reigning most outstanding player, connecting with receiver Derel Walker for a 101-yard touchdown. Walker, who praised Reilly before the game for his leadership and uncanny ability to pile up explosive plays, plucked the ball over the hands of Bombers defensive Chris Randle, freeing himself for the final 40 yards to the end zone and a 7-0 lead just 3:26 into the game.

An interception by linebacker J.C. Sherritt on the ensuing drive gave the Eskimos the ball in Bombers’ territory. But two strong plays by the defence limited the damage of the turnover, with the drive ending three plays later with a 52-yard field goal by Sean Whyte for a 10-0 edge.

Streveler finally settled in, answering back on the next series with an impressive eight-play touchdown drive, capped off with a 16-yard pass to a wide-open Weston Dressler. The Bombers, down 10-7, suffered a brief scare just prior to the Dressler touchdown, when running back Andrew Harris limped to the sidelines with what looked to be an injury to his right knee.

Any concern over Harris’s health was squashed soon after as he could be seen near the Bombers bench giving the offence a passionate pep talk. But while Harris was doing just fine, Winnipeg wasn’t doing all that well. Reilly added a one-yard touchdown with seconds remaining in the first quarter, giving the Eskimos a 17-7 lead before the game was stopped for the first time.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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