Elks dominate second half, snap three-game skid with 30-12 win over Redblacks

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OTTAWA — It wasn't the start the Edmonton Elks would have wanted, but a dominant second half leading to a win did the job to snap a three-game skid.

Quarterback Taylor Cornelius threw two touchdown passes and the Elks (3-7) scored 21 unanswered points in the second half for a 30-12 comeback win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday.

“In the first half, they were giving us a lot of exotic looks we’d never seen before, so we had to get them out of doing that by speeding up the tempo, and that showed in the second half,” said Cornelius.

“We got on a roll and were moving the ball very well in the second half. I wish we would have done that in the first half, but we’ll take this win and prepare for next week when we play them at home.”

Cornelius went 16-of-27 passing for 208 yards, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker with 6:34 left in the fourth quarter.

Caleb Evans threw for 111 yards and rushed for another 82, including a 21-yard touchdown run, but the Redblacks (1-8) lost for the 19th time in their last 20 games.

“In that first half, if you were watching the game and not the scoreboard, you would have probably felt like we had a pretty good lead on them," said QB Nick Arbuckle, who came on in relief of Evans late in the game, finishing with 7-of-13 passing for 85 yards.

"We just weren’t finishing drives for a number of reasons, but it comes back to all of us. It’s tough to be a part of. We know that we can be a lot more successful and that’s why it’s frustrating, because we know (how) good we can be."

An 18-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Kenny Lawler at 11:03 in the third quarter gave the Elks their first lead of the game at 16-12.

Just under eight minutes later, Ante Milanovic-Litre scored on a two-yard run to boost the Elks' lead to 23-12 following a Sergio Castillo extra point.

“We did a great job on offence … and on defence we held them, and we did our job to get the defence off the field,” said long snapper Peter Adjey, who recorded one special teams tackle for the Elks.

“Our coaches make the corrections at halftime and we have a lot of players-led leadership to get everyone in check to make sure we came out and execute in the second half.”

The Redblacks entered the third quarter up 12-9 after a less than spectacular first half that began with Ottawa's PA announcer introducing Edmonton as the Eskimos.

Lewis Ward made a 46-yard field goal near the midway mark of the first quarter, but a roughing the kicker penalty on Edmonton defensive lineman Jake Ceresna gave the Redblacks a fresh set of downs.

A minute later, Ottawa took advantage as Evans ran in for a 21-yard score at the 7:43 mark.

The Elks answered back before the end of the quarter on a 52-yard field goal by Castillo.

In the second quarter, Ward left six points on the board with back-to-back missed field goals from 40 and 47 yards that led to a pair of rouge points. Ward connected from 13 yards out with 4:45 left to give the Redblacks a 12-3 lead.

Late in the first half, the Elks had the ball at the Redblacks one-yard line following a defensive pass interference call.

QB Kai Locksley entered the game for the short-yardage situation but was stopped twice on sneak attempts. Locksley scored on his third attempt on a sweep right play, but Castillo hit the upright on the point after attempt to make it 12-9.

“We had a close game at half and we left some points on the board, whether it’s not getting touchdowns or missing field goals," said Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice.

"We let them right back in (it) a little bit right before half. But it was the third quarter where we didn’t respond as well as they did.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press