VANCOUVER – Mike Reilly threw for 203 and a touchdown in just under three quarters of play as the Edmonton Eskimos hung onto a 27-22 win over the BC Lions.
It was an early matchup of teacher and protégé as BC’s Travis Lulay took on his old backup Reilly.
Reilly made the start and will do so Week 1 after an injury to Matt Nichols all but handed the former Lion the spot.
Lulay headlined a group of starters who Mike Benevides said would play up to three full quarters in the interest of keeping them sharp heading into their opener in Calgary next week.
It didn’t take long for the former MOP to prove that the Lions were primed for meaningful games, leading his first drive of the game 81 yards for a score. First he hit Nick Moore down the sideline for 36 yards before connecting with Courtney Taylor for a 23-yard major three plays later.
Teacher vs. Student
Travis Lulay got a pre-season look at his old protégé Mike Reilly as the two went head-to-head Friday night.
It was a positive start for Benevides and his crew who will be relying heavy on the aforementioned pair of pass-catchers to replace the now departed Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce lll.
Following a BC punt single point, the Lions had a chance to build on their lead but the Esks secondary stepped up to force a turnover. Lulay had appeared to have found Emmanuel Arceneaux over the middle but the former Minnesota Viking bobbled the ball and it fell into the hands of Donovan Alexander who returned it 31 yards down to the Lions 3 yard line.
The Esks would punch it in three plays later on the strength of a Hugh Charles 1-yard scamper to cut the Lions lead to 8-7.
Edmonton was poised to expand on the lead, marching the ball into the red zone on the next possession but Reilly sailed a pass to the back of the endzone which was picked off by Lions DB Josh Bell to stall the drive.
After a two-and-outs, Lulay threw an interception intended for Arceneaux and was picked off by Aaron Grymes to get the ball back in Edmonton’s hands.
Reilly went to work, putting the ball in the hands of running back John White who split numerous defenders on his way to a 69-yard romp down field to set the Esks up at the Lions 3 yard line. Shaw would knock in a 13-yard field goal to increase the lead to 17-8.
Back and forth they went as Lulay had an answer for the Esks’ recent score. He engineered a 16-play, 76-yard touchdown drive finished off by a 3-yard major to Moore.
That would end Lulay’s night as he gave way to backup Thomas DeMarco with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Lulay finished 15 of 26 passing for 203 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Reilly wouldn’t be outdone by his former mentor. He marched down the field, finding Koch for a 54-yard gain but had to settle for a 10-yard Shaw field goal.
Just before the third quarter came to a close, Reilly gave way to Jonathan Crompton behind centre. Reilly finished 13 of 18 for 202 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception.
The teams then traded long bombs as well as touchdowns on consecutive drives.
Crompton made his presence felt when he found WR Isiah Sweeney in stride for a 69-yard touchdown as he bolted away from the BC defenders.
The Lions answered right back, however, when DeMarco found rookie Canadian wideout Seydou Junior Hairdara who made two defenders miss along the sideline for a highlight-reel 59-yard major to cut the Eskimos lead to 27-22 midway through the fourth.
The Lions seemed poised to take the lead just after the three minute warning but a third and goal gamble from the five yard line bounced in and out of a receivers hands earning the Esks a turnover on downs.
The Lions would force a two-and-out and get the ball back at midfield with 2:08 remaining. The couldn’t capitalize however and would once again turn it over on downs.