VANCOUVER — If Travis Lulay needs some extra time to heal his injured shoulder, the BC Lions would be in excellent hands with his backup Mike Reilly.
Reilly, making his first career CFL start, completed 19 of his 28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Lions to a 39-19 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night.
With the win, the Lions clinched first place in the West Division, and will host the Western Final at BC Place Stadium on Nov. 18.
The Lions also received an excellent performance from kicker Paul McCallum, who connected on all six of his field goal attempts, the longest of which arrived from 48 yards out.
However, things didn’t start too well for Reilly, as his second pass of the game was intercepted by Eskimos linebacker JC Sherritt, who returned it 27 yards back to the Lions’17-yard line.
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The pick was Sherritt’s fifth of the season and second in as many games.
Fortunately for Reilly, his defence would stand tall and bail him out, with Sherritt’s positional rival Adam Bighill hauling down Edmonton pivot Kerry Joseph for a 10-yard sack.
Bighill’s big play forced the Eskimos to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Grant Shaw, giving the Esks an early 3-0 lead.
On BC’s next possession, however, Reilly would show signs of settling down.
With the help of tailback Andrew Harris, the Lions pivot would lead his offence on a nine-play, 83-yard drive that was capped off with an 11-yard touchdown strike to receiver Courtney Taylor.
The drive was prolonged thanks to two penalties by the Esks, including a costly pass interference penalty by Chris Thompson.
The touchdown was Taylor’s second major in as many weeks, as he continues to make life easier for the Lions offence, which was missing receivers Arland Bruce and Geroy Simon for the third-straight game.
But BC’s lead would be short-lived, as the Esks clawed their way back thanks to the leg of Shaw, who recorded a punt single and a 24-yard field goal to equal the score at seven apiece late in the opening frame.
With the second quarter barely underway, the kickers would continue to take centre stage, as both McCallum and Shaw exchanged field goals to make it a 10-10 ball game.
Midway through the second quarter, Bighill continued to make his presence felt, as he snuffed out a potential Eskimos scoring threat by running Joseph down from behind to register his second sack of the game.
Heading into Week 17, Bighill had been on a tear, tallying 20 tackles in his last two games.
Bighill’s strong play headlined a nice defensive effort by the Lions in the second quarter, one that allowed the Lions offence to find their rhythm with time winding down in the half.
Reilly completed three consecutive passes to Tim Brown, Nick Moore and Akeem Foster, bringing the drive inside the Edmonton five-yard line.
But two plays later, Reilly wasn’t able to connect with Earnest Jackson in the endzone on second down, ultimately forcing the Lions to settle for an 11-yard field goal by McCallum.
The Lions would take a 16-10 lead into the break a 48-yard field goal by McCallum with just 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
During the first half, veteran Eskimos receiver Fred Stamps hauled in one reception for 39 yards, launching him over the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth-straight year.
|Harris Makes History|
BC Lions RB Andrew Harris earned a place in CFL history Friday night as he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career.
The second half got underway with the Lions defence continuing to make life difficult for Joseph, as Keron Williams registered his league-leading 11th sack of the season.
On BC’s next possession, McCallum would connect on his fourth field goal of the game, this time splitting the uprights from 44 yards out to extend the Lions’ modest lead to nine.
However, the Lions would see their nine-point lead shrink to a touchdown’s length, as McCallum conceded a safety from deep inside his own territory.
While the two offences were stymied by the defences for the most part of the third quarter, the Edmonton offence finally woke up, with Joseph leading a furious drive that extended into the early parts of the fourth quarter.
The 39-year-old pivot picked apart the dangerous BC secondary, connecting on a 23-yard pass to rookie Shamawd Chambers before running for an 18-yard gain of his own to give the Esks a fresh set of downs inside the red zone.
After a failing to find Stamps in the endzone, Joseph heaved a pass to receiver Cary Koch, who made a spectacular catch on a tip drill, tying the game up at 19 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game.
However, the Lions would answer back in a hurry and re-gain the lead once again, with McCallum booting his fifth field goal of the game, this time splitting the uprights from 40 yards out.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Harris made CFL history, becoming just the ninth Canadian to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. It’s been an eventful two weeks for Harris, who last week surpassed Terry Evanshen for most yards from scrimmage by a Canadian.
Leading by three with just over six minutes to go in the game, Reilly continued to show poise and patience under centre, orchestrating an impressive seven-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off by a nine-yard touchdown strike to Nick Moore.
The major was Moore’s third of the season.
With time running out, the Esks began to take their chances downfield, but came up short on their very next possession, as Joseph was picked off by Ryan Phillips.
The Lions then began to distance themselves soon after, as McCallum registered his sixth field goal of the night, connecting on a kick from 42 yards out.
Having already established a decent lead with time winding down in the final frame, the Lions put the game on ice, as Brown took a Reilly handoff 23 yards for a touchdown, giving BC a 39-19 win.