VANCOUVER – Andrew Harris delivered the knock-out punch with a 4-yard touchdown late to cap off a 24-16 BC Lions win over the Toronto Argonauts Thursday night.
It was a matchup that pitted the last two Grey Cup Champions against one another after the Lions won it on home turf in 2011 and the Argos followed suit a year later in the 100th edition of the game.
One thing that Travis Lulay and the Lions offence vowed heading into tonight was to get off to a quicker start; something they didn’t do in their loss to Calgary last week falling down 16-0 early.
Lulay made good on his promise, first connected with Nick Moore for 43 yards on their second possession before finding WR Courtney Taylor in the endzone for a 6-yard touchdown pass and an early 7-0 lead.
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The Lions followed up that score with another impressive drive featuring a heavy dose of Moore who had already recorded 93 yards receiving in the first quarter. The Lions were poised to go up by two majors but Khalif Mitchell got to Lulay for a sack deep in Argo territory to force BC to kick a field goal.
Mitchell’s return to BC dominated headlines for most of the week after an unceremonious exit in a trade to Toronto. The re-focused lineman said that he entered the matchup with “no grudges, no hard feelings”.
The Lions offence continued to move the ball early on as Lulay connected with Manny Arceneaux for a 44-yard catch to set up another O’Neill field goal. O’Neill was in his second week handling all of the kicking duties with Paul McCallum still not back from injury.
After being stifled buy the Lions ‘D’ for the entire first quarter, Ricky Ray and the Toronto offence finally started to move the ball midway through the second frame. Ray found SB Chad Owens three times to set up a 42-yard Noel Prefontaine field goal to cut the Lions lead to 13-3.
Prefontaine, who was added to Toronto’s practice roster just before the season, was making his return following an injury to Swayze Waters.
The teams entered halftime with BC up 14-3.
The Lions defence was the story of the first half, holding the Argos to 97 yards of total offence. They were lead by fierce linebacker Solomon Elimimian who made his 2013 debut after missing last week in Calgary with an injury. He along with Adam Bighill are aiming to prove to the Lions administration that the two can co-exist in their linebacking corps after the former Defensive Player of the Year’s return midway through last season. BC primarily kept Bighill at the middle linebacker position while sending Elimimian off the edge at the outside spot.
The Lions plan at linebacker took a turn for the worse when Bighill went down on the first possession of the second half and was carted off the field never to return to action for the rest of the night. Also concerning for the Lions was receiver Shawn Gore leaving the game after absorbing a hit from rookie Argos DB Janzen Jackson.
Even without Bighill, the Lions defence continued to swarm Ray and the Argos, holding them to just a field goal through three quarters.
|Big Loss for Lions|
It wasn't all good news for the victorious Lions who lost middle linebacker Adam Bighill in the third quarter to injury. He was carted off and did not return.
Meanwhile, Lulay continued to wear down Toronto’s defence that was still trying to find itself. Although he wasn’t putting majors on the board, the Lions pivot was leading long drives and O’Neill added another field goal to make it 17-3 Lions.
And defensively, the Lions continued to hold their ground.
After Argos defensive back Jalil Carter picked off a Lulay pass and took it inside the BC 20 yard line, the Leos stood tall and forced the Argos to kick a 12-yard field goal. The make cut the lead to 17-6.
Momentum began swinging in Toronto’s favour however as they opened the fourth quarter with a blocked punt by Jackson, recovered by Matt Black at the Lions 40 yard line. The Lions came up with a stop and Prefontaine stuck a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead to 17-9.
With Toronto looking to get within striking distance, former Argos defensive back Lin-J Shell stripped Ray of the ball and the Leos recovered on the Argos’ 40 yard line.
Harris then went to work on the ground. First he ripped off a 23-yard scamper before finishing off the 4-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown.
Adding to the drama that surrounded Mitchell’s return to BC, the hulking lineman took a roughing the passer call a play earlier to take what would have been a field goal attempt and set up the Lions inside the Argos five yard line.
Already without WR Dontrelle Inman, who was a late scratch, Ray and the Argonauts were just surrounded by the Lions defence who held them to just over 200 yards of total offence. Ray finished with an average 215 yards passing on 28 of 39.
Ray added a 7-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds left to cut the lead to 24-16 but that is as close as Toronto would get.
Next week the Argos return home to host Darian Durant and the Saskatcheawn Roughriders while the Lions travel to Edmonton to take on former backup QB Mike Reilly and the Eskimos.