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TORONTO — Mike Reilly’s one-yard touchdown plunge in the fourth quarter was the difference, as the visiting BC Lions used a great defensive effort to down the Argonauts 18-9 on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
Both the Lions and Argos entered Monday’s game trying to develop some momentum, with both teams coming off big wins one week ago.
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Last Friday, the Argos sailed into Montreal and downed the Alouettes 23-20, while the Lions got back on track with a convincing 34-8 road win over the Calgary Stampeders two days later.
Heading into today’s action, the story was all about the stingy Lions defence going up against the dangerous Argos offence.
Early on, however, it was the Lions defence that was making all the noise, coming up big on consecutive drives.
On Toronto’s first play following a BC two-and-out, quarterback Ricky Ray was hit as he threw by Lions cornerback Dante Marsh, the ball was eventually intercepted by linebacker James Yurichuk who returned it seven yards to the Toronto 20-yard line.
The turnover would prove costly for the Boatmen, as Lulay hooked up with Foster for a nine-yard touchdown just four plays later. The touchdown catch was Foster’s second in as many weeks.
BC’s defence continued to roll in the first quarter, as Ray was once again picked off, this time by linebacker Adam Bighill.
Bighill’s second interception in as many weeks would lead to a 24-yard field goal by kicker Paul McCallum, giving the Lions a 10-0 lead.
The second quarter kicked off much different than the first, as the Argos offence began to display glimpses of what has made them one of the more potent units in the league.
Two plays after running back Cory Boyd rumbled eight yards for a first down, Ray would complete a pass to receiver Andre Durie, who carried it to the outside for an 11-yard gain.
The Argos would avoid a disaster on their next play, as Ray was seemingly intercepted by Byron Parker who returned it 72 yards to the endzone for a touchdown. However, defensive end Keron Williams was called offside, giving possession back to Toronto.
But the Boatmen would run into penalty trouble of their own. 10 plays into the drive, Ray would complete consecutive passes to Spencer Watt and Cory Boyd for big gains, both of which were called back to due to penalties, giving the Argos a long field to work with.
Kicker Swayze Waters was eventually called on to punt on third down, handing possession back to the Lions with 7:57 remaining in the half.
Despite the setback, the Argos would continue to build momentum as the first half inched closer to its end. Following a punt single by McCallum to give the Lions an 11-0 lead, Ray would lead the Argos on a six-play, 32-yard drive that was capped off by a 35-yard field goal by Waters, cutting BC’s lead to eight.
With nine seconds remaining in the half, the Argos would take over possession on the Lions’ 20-yard line, thanks to a 26-yard punt return by Matt Black.
However, Ray was unable to find the endzone, forcing Toronto to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Waters, cutting BC’s lead to five as the first half came to a close.
The Argos would continue to garner momentum on both sides of the ball in the second half, as the offence, defence and special teams would chip in to help slowly cut into BC’s lead.
After Ricky Foley and the Argo defence stymied the Lions on their first drive of the half, Ray would lead the offence on seven-play drive that was capped off by a 35-yard field goal by Waters, his third connection of the game.
With BC’s lead now cut to just two points, Lulay and the offence were hoping to get something going on their next possession.
However, the Argos defence was seemingly too much to handle, as Lulay was hurried on both of his pass attempts, the second resulting in a three-yard sack by Kevin Huntley.
But the Lions would seize back momentum on their next possession, with Lulay completing a 58-yard pass to Ernest Jackson, giving the Lions a fresh set of downs on Toronto’s two-yard line.
The Lions defence smothered the Argos, limiting the dangerous Toronto attack to just 252 total yards, while forcing four turnovers in the process.
Jackson was a force in his first game with the Lions, hauling in four passes for 87 yards.
With their backs against the wall, the Argos defence would give the Lions all they could handle with a strong goal-line stand, preventing the Lions to enter the end zone on three consecutive attempts. However, linebacker Marcus Ball was called offside on BC’s third-down try, giving the Lions another set of downs to work with.
This time, the Lions would made quick work, as backup QB Mike Reilly punched one in from one-yard out to give the Lions an 18-9 lead with under 10 minutes remaining.
Despite allowing Ray to complete 20 of his 27 pass attempts through almost 50 minutes of play, the Lions had limited the veteran pivot to just 177 yards and no touchdown passes to that point in the game.
However, it wasn’t until 6:26 remaining in the final frame, that the defensive prowess of the Lions took full control of the game.
With Ray scrambling out of the pocket, Lions rookie Jabar Westerman forced the ball out of his hands, allowing former Argonaut Lin-J Shell to recover the loose ball.
Fortunately for the Argos, the Lions were unable to capitalize off the turnover.
With time running down, the Argos embarked on a late drive in hopes of quickly cutting into the Lions’ nine-point lead. After Ray completed five consecutive passes, leading the Argos into BC territory, his intended pass for Dontrelle Inman would find the hands of Marsh, handing the Lions the ball and their second-straight win in the process.
The win marked a victorious homecoming for Lions defensive backs Parker and Shell, both of whom signed with the Lions during the off-season. The two combined for seven tackles and one fumble recovery.
However, the two were forced to share the spotlight with Bighill, who continued his strong play in the early parts of the season, registering seven tackles, one sack and one interception.
Both clubs will enter their bye week, with the Argonauts next playing on Aug. 18 in Calgary, while the Lions will play host to the Roughriders one day later.
Prior to the game, a moment of silence was held to honour Greg Mohns, a former Lions and Argonauts executive who passed away on July 25.