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CALGARY – Kevin Glenn connected with Ernest Jackson with under two minutes to play to give the BC Lions a gutsy 25-24 win over the Calgary Stampeders Friday night at McMahon Stadium.
Playing catch-up for most of the final three quarters, Glenn strong-armed a pass to Jackson who was open down the near sidelines. The third-year pass-catcher split a pair of Calgary defenders and raced to the end zone to give the Lions the one-point lead which would prove to be the winning tally.
Friday night marked the return of Glenn to Calgary where he was consistently listed as a backup but spelled injured quarterbacks for two seasons while also leading the Stamps to a Grey Cup appearance in 2012.
The win was his first in nine tries at McMahon as a visiting quarterback dating back to his days in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Hamilton.
The loss was Calgary’s first of the season.
As the first quarter got under way, Glenn quickly got another milestone out of the way, completing a pass to Courtney Taylor to leapfrog the veteran pivot to 9th place on the all-time passing yards list with 40,536.
As he and the BC offence looked to get in a groove, it was the Lions defence that got out to a roaring start. With 6:19 left in the opening frame, Calgary QB Bo Levi Mitchell went through his progressions and looked right to find Anthony Parker in the flat. Rookie defensive back Ronnie Yell jumped the route and took an interception back 32-yards for the touchdown.
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The San Jose State product’s pick-six gave the Lions an early 7-0 lead but it would quickly evaporate.
On the ensuing possession, Mitchell and the Stamps answered right back. Calgary’s gunslinger marched his club down the field, finding Joe West twice in the process for gains of 11 and 18 yards. On the fifth play of the drive, Mitchell connected with slotback Marquay McDaniel who tight-roped the sidelines and dove for the pylon for the Calgary touchdown.
Sticking with the Calgary offence, the Stampeders started Martell Mallett at running back with both Jon Cornish and Matt Walter on the shelf. Friday’s start was Mallett’s first since the 2009 playoffs with BC after fighting through a number of injuries over the last four seasons.
The 28-year-old back proved that despite not playing in five seasons, there was no wear and tear in his game. The former Lion was a factor all evening long, posting 116 yards on 14 carries and another 59 ayrds on the ground.
The Lions went back to work and after Glenn found slotback Marco Iannuzzi for a 17-yard gain, BC put three points on the board off the foot of Paul McCallum.
Glenn’s next drive, however, went the other way.
With six minutes remaining in the half, Glenn looked off a defender and tried to sling a pass into Taylor but veteran DB Keon Raymond had an answer for Yell’s earlier pick-six. Raymond snagged the INT and returned it 62 yards untouched for the game’s second interception touchdown and a 14-10 Calgary lead.
Raymond and McDaniel’s major seemed to spark the entire Calgary squad as the defence came up big on the next possession and allowed Mitchell and the offence to rack up more points. With just over three minutes left in the half, Mallett broke through the first wave of defenders on a halfback sweep and turned up-field for a 56-yard gain.
He and Jock Sanders would get Calgary down to the goal line before backup QB Drew Tate punched in the major from 1-yard out in short yardage to increase the Stampeders lead to 21-10.
Holding an 11-point lead, Calgary looked to open the game up as the third quarter began. An aggressive drive stalled inside Lions territory with just over 10 minutes left in the frame stalled when Adam Bighill popped the football out of Mallett’s hand on a carry and was knocked out of bounds by the forearm of DB Dante Marsh.
The Leos couldn’t capitalize as a dialed-in Stampeders defence, led by Charleston Hughes, got after Glenn, forcing a punt situation.
The Lions would post points on the board on their next drive though. Glenn leaned on Andrew Harris who ran tough up the gut of the Calgary defence, helping BC knock on the door. A knockdown by Deron Mayo on second-and-10 from the Stampeders 15 yard line, kept Glenn and co. out of the end zone and a Paul McCallum field goal was all they could get.
Harris had an exceptional night, finishing with 143 yards from scrimmage and 1 touchdown.
Now up by eight points, the Stamps began to run into some trouble as a pair of penalties and a stout Lions defence stalled Mitchell and the offence.
Meanwhile, the Lions, poised to tie things up, once again went to their horse. As a part of an 8-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, Harris marched the Leos almost singlehandedly. Both on the ground and through the air, Harris ripped off gains of 25, 6, 14, 2 and 29 before slipping out into the flat to receive a four yard dump pass from Glenn for a 4-yard touchdown.
The Lions elected to go for two with just under 10 minutes remaining but Glenn couldn’t connect with Taylor and remained down 21-19.
The Stampeders earned a field goal on their next drive to increase the lead to five but the Lions struck shortly thereafter to re-take the lead once and for all.
Glenn spotted Jackson down the sidelines for a 65-yard catch-and-run major with only 1:32 seconds remaining on the game clock. The touchdown stunned the McMahon Stadium crowd of over 27,000 and gave the Leos the one-point lead that would eventually stand as the final score, 25-24. BC threw incomplete on the two-point conversion.
The Stampeders seemed poised to attempt a last-second game-winning field goal but after marching to mid-field, Yell popped the pigskin out of the hands of Parker and the Lions recovered to preserve the win.
Calgary remains at home next week as they host the Ottawa REDBLACKS for the first time while the Lions return home to take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.