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EDMONTON – The BC Lions made a late charge, completing the comeback in Edmonton for a 14-11 win in pre-season action at Commonwealth Friday night.
The Leos had been down the entire contest until tying things up at 11 with just under three minutes remaining. After their defence forced a turnover, rookie kicker Steven Shott hit a 38-yard field goal to win the game.
The fact that these two teams were playing their first pre-season game was about the only thing they had in common as each entered with totally different game plans.
Edmonton, led by new head coach Chris Jones, started what will likely resemble something close to their starting lineup come opening day.
Incumbent starting quarterback Mike Reilly began the game and played just over a quarter. Any rust that may have built up over the off-season was not evident on this day. On Edmonton’s third offensive possession, Reilly marched the Esks down the field, finding Adarius Bowman, Fred Stamps and rookie receiver AJ Guyton for big gains before throwing a strike to Stamps for a 33-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Reilly gave way to Jonathan Crompton shortly thereafter but not before completing a stellar 11 of 12 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in short duty.
The Lions countered with a different game plan, starting backup veteran Kevin Glenn at quarterback while Travis Lulay continued to nurse a sore shoulder. Glenn played just over a quarter and threw for 72 yards on 5-of-8 passing.
After the Lions cut the lead to 7-3, rookie QB John Beck entered the game with 12:35 left in the second quarter to take over the Lions offence.
The Brigham Young product took some time to find his footing but seemed poised to put points on the board after stringing along first downs to set the Lions up deep inside Eskimos territory. Facing a third-and-goal scenario from the eight yard line Beck looked endzone for rookie receiver Jabin Sambrano, but he had the ball knocked out of his grip.
Beck went back to work on the next drive but had a pass sail into the arms of Eskimos defender Dexter McCoil, who picked off the pass and returned it to the Lions side of centre.
Quarterback Pat White (West Virginia), who entered the game a few drives previous, would help the Esks get closer as Grant Shaw hit an 11-yard field goal with no time on the clock to send the Eskimos to the locker room with a 10-4 halftime lead.
Beck played the majority of the third quarter as well and finished 6-of-15 for 113 yards and one interception.
As the third quarter began, so did the next phase in Matt Nichols’ career. Once seen as the potential quarterback of the future in Edmonton had suffered two major injuries and was seeing his first snaps since pre-season in 2013.
Nichols controlled the game well, completing 8 of 11 passes for 99 yards. Two missed field goals, however, ensured that Nichols only posted one point in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, Jacori Harris out of Miami took over the controls for the Eskimos while Missouri Western product Travis Partridge entered for the Lions under centre.
Searching for BCs first major of the game, Partridge stepped into a pass and dropped it right into the hands of Whitman Tomusiak for a 40 yard gain but two plays later was picked off by Eskimos veteran DB Ryan Hinds.
Partridge would make up for it with just under three minutes remaining however; after leading his club down the field, Patridge dropped a pass into the hands of rookie receiver Brian Burnham for a 23-yard touchdown. The Tulsa product’s major tied the game at 11 with 2:43 remaining.
As the Eskimos spend camp and pre-season looking for the right blend of receivers, there was one player that made himself known. Michigan State grad Mark Dell hauled in six receptions for 74 yards, including a 41-yard catch and run.
It was Dell’s last catch that will be remembered though. With 1:05 left, Dell got hit and fumbled the ball. The loose pigskin was picked up by newcomer DL Alex Hoffman-Ellis who ran it deep inside Eskimos territory.
Two plays later Shott knocked through a 38-yard field goal which would stand as the winner.
The Lions return home to host the Calgary Stampeders next week while the Eskimos close out their pre-season schedule with a road game in Regina versus the Roughriders.