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EDMONTON — Paul McCallum’s 45-yard field goal with under a minute remaining gave the Lions a 19-18 win over the Esks on Saturday night, in a defensive struggle at Commonwealth Stadium.
Geroy Simon caught his 100th career touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter, while non-import running back Andrew Harris had 181 yards from scrimmage to lead the Lions to a grind-it-out win over their division foe, tying the season series at one apiece.
Lions pivot Travis Lulay completed 26 of 39 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown in the win, as the Lions fought back from a 15-3 first-half deficit for their league-leading ninth win of the season.
The Lions opened with a quick surge as Tim Brown returned the game’s opening kickoff across their own 50, setting up Lulay with prime field position. But the Esks defence showed up early to force a quick two-and-out followed by a punt.
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Starting deep in their own end, the Esks shifted field position with a decent drive up to midfield, before Grant Shaw boomed a 75-yard punt through the Lions end zone for the game’s opening single point.
The Esks’ 30-year-old pivot finished with nine completions on 10 passing attempts in the opening quarter, but despite that the Green and Gold were held to just a single point and a 1-0 edge through 15 minutes of play.
On BC’s third two-and-out of the game, Joe Burnett would make the Lions pay for their offensive struggles, bursting up the seam on a long punt return to set the Esks up at the BC 24-yard-line.
Jyles was sacked on first down, but the veteran pivot dropped back and fired for the end zone on second and long, finding Koch in coverage for a 27-yard touchdown pass to put the Esks ahead 8-0.
This only awakened Lulay and the Lions offence though. After a long run by Brown was negated by a Lions facemask penalty, the young quarterback found Kierrie Johnson on a long completion down to the Esks’ 20-yard-line.
But the Lions couldn’t capitalize, forcing McCallum for a 37-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 8-3.
The Esks stayed hot though, as Hugh Charles dashed up the middle on a screen pass for a 20-yard gain, setting up Coehoorn’s fourth reception of the game for a 32-yard gain to move Edmonton to the four-yard-line.
Charles did the rest from there for his first touchdown of the game, putting the Esks in front with a commanding 15-3 lead with seven minutes remaining in the opening half.
Lulay would heat up before the half though, leading two straight drives deep into Eskimo territory. But the Esks defence tightened up, forcing McCallum on for two more field goals from 35 and 28 yards out respectively. That cut the deficit to 15-9 heading into the half.
Jyles finished the first half 12-14 passing for 159 yards with a touchdown, including a streak of 12 consecutive completions – one of the most impressive halfs of football for a quarterback this season.
It didn’t take long for the Lions hungry defence to get to Jyles in the second half though. On the opening possession, a Jyles pass into coverage was deflected into the hands of middle linebacker Adam Bighill, making good on his third interception of the season to set BC up with the ball at midfield.
But the Lions were once again stalled, and this time kept off the board after McCallum pushed a 43-yard kick right of the upright.
The Lions would continue to move the ball on their next possession, as Harris became more involved with the game plan getting multiple touches and leading BC once again into scoring range. But for the fifth time tonight, the drive stalled, forcing McCallum on once again.
This time it would be costly though, as the veteran kicker pulled left of the upright what seemed to be a chip shot from 27 yards out, earning just a single point and cutting the deficit to 15-10.
There was good news for the Lions in the third quarter though, as the defence continued to dominate, forcing another two-and-out thanks to a Keron Williams sack on second down, putting the ball back into the hands of Lulay almost instantly.
Lulay quickly led his offence deep into Eskimos territory for the sixth time in the game, this time moving into the red zone after several pretty catches by Arland Bruce and a third-down gamble that kept the drive alive.
But BC continued to be haunted by its inability to finish drives, as Johnson was stripped of the ball on his way to the ground after a catch by Esks’ defensive back Weldon Brown. After a lengthy review, the fumble was upheld, giving the Esks the ball back at the 10-yard-line in a defensive but eventful second half.
Harris quickly made up for it though, catchign a 13-yard pass before rumbling for 49 yards down to the Eskimo six-yard-line to give the Lions their best chance of the night to take their first lead of the game.
History would be made on the very next play, as Lulay hooked up with Simon at the two-yard-line, who quickly fought through and spun-off a pair of Esks defenders to reach across the goal line for his 100th career touchdown reception. The Lions failed to score on the two-point conversion, but took a 16-15 lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
The Esks would fire back though as the three minute warning approaches, as Jyles hit Koch for another long gain to move into field goal range. The Lions defence would settle in on a big sack by Williams once again, but Grant Shaw was able to hit from 40 to give the Eskimos an 18-16 lead late in the fourth quarterb.
With time on the clock though, it was Lulay’s game to lose. Last year’s Most Outstanding Player seemed to have the Esks’ number all half, and on what would likely be the game’s final drive, he picked up exactly where he left off.
After using his legs to move the chains on a key second down, Lulay found Simon for a 14-yard play down to the Edmonton 45-yard-line. From there, the workhorse, Harris, took over. The non-import back barged through the pail for eight on first down, moving the Lions into closer range for a potential winning field goal.
A botched snap on second down brought the veteran kicker onto the field with 1:20 remaining for a 45-yard attempt. After missing his previous two attempts, including one from just 27 yards out, McCallum came through when it mattered, giving the Lions the lead right back, 19-18.
The Esks looked to respond late, but with the game on the line on a third-and-four, Jyles’ throw landed over the head of his receiver out in no-man’s land.
With the win, the Lions moved to 9-3 and now have a two-game cushion atop the West Division standings. The Esks, meanwhile, lost their fourth game in a row, falling to 5-7.
Jyles finished the night with 17 completions on 27 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, but went 5-13 with an interception in the second half.
Next Week for Edmonton: The Eskimos look to solve Jon Cornish and the Stamps once in for all, as they head to Calgary for this year’s third edition of the Battle of Alberta. BUY TICKETS.
Next Week for BC: Travis Lulay and the Lions invade Riderville for a duel with Kory Sheets and the Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium. BUY TICKETS.