VANCOUVER – Darian Durant threw for 234 yards and a touchdown while Kory Sheets punched in two majors as the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the BC Lions 31-17 Friday night at BC Place.
It was revenge for the Riders who surrendered a late lead two weeks ago in Regina as they watched the Lions kick a game-winning field goal on their home turf to help fuel an already-tight West Division playoff picture.
Friday marked the return of future Hall of Fame slotback Geroy Simon to Vancouver after being traded from BC to Saskatchewan last off-season. Arguably one of the greatest to ever don a Leos jersey, Simon accumulated 14,756 yards and 93 touchdowns on 904 receptions in 12 seasons in BC.
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» Images: Saskatchewan at BC
» Video: Dressler Grabs 6-Yard Major
» Sheets Powers for 7-Yard Touchdown
» Gore Sweeps Past Riders 'D' for Touchdown
» Preview: Simon returns to Lions den
It has been a busy few weeks for Simon who two weeks ago, played the Lions for the first time since the big trade and last week, became the league’s all-time receptions leader with 1,020 by game’s end – surpassing former Alouette slotback Ben Cahoon.
The first quarter was a defensive battle with a Paul McCallum 35-yard field goal counting as the only points as the Lions took an early 3-0 lead off a nine-play drive.
As the second quarter began, Jock Sanders’ 24-yard punt return set up a 6-play, 61-yard touchdown march by Durant and the Roughriders as the Saskatchewan pivot threw a 6-yard strike to Weston Dressler to give the Riders a 7-3 lead.
Thomas DeMarco was starting his third straight game for the Lions after commanding the offence in two consecutive wins.
DeMarco found Nick Moore for 27 yards and then got a pass interference call to set BC up deep in Riders territory. Looking end zone, DeMarco’s throwing hand was hit by John Chick and the ball floated into DB Dwight Anderson’s hands who returned it to the Lions 35-yard line, wiping out a potential scoring opportunity.
Durant and the Riders scrimmaged from their own 36 yard line and promptly put together an impressive 78-yard scoring drive.
Durant found Dressler on a crossing route for a 45-yard catch-and-run and set up what was to be a 32-yard Chris Milo field goal but a facemask call on Lions DB Lin-J Shell kept the drive alive and Saskatchewan eventually put another major on the board when Kory Sheets ran it in from 1-yard out.
Sheets was making his return after missing a pair of games with a knee injury and seemed to have picked up where he left off before being injured against Toronto in Week 12.
Geroy Simon made his first return to BC place since the off-season trade that send him to Saskatchewan after he racked up 14,756 yards and 93 touchdowns in Lions orange.
In a rather unconventional move, the Riders went for a two-point conversion and were successful as Durant found Dressler to extend the first-half lead to 15-3.
The Riders would put together another solid drive shortly thereafter but Milo would push a 26-yard attempt wide right for a single point.
Saskatchewan took a 16-3 lead into halftime.
As the second half began, the two teams traded quick touchdowns.
First, DeMarco found SB Korey Williams for a 41-yard gain and got a pass intereference call in goal to set up a 1-yard Shawn Gore touchdown on a goal line sweep.
Then the Riders answered back with a drive that saw Durant connect with Taj Smith for 24 yards and Dressler for 15 before Sheets powered his way from 7-yards out for his second touchdown of the game and a 23-10 third-quarter lead.
After Milo pushed another attempt right (43 yards), the Lions decided they needed to alter something on their offence with just over a minute remaining in the third frame. They decided to hand the reigns over to former Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce.
Pierce would go two-and-out on his first possession however and the Lions conceded a safety to head to the fourth quarter trailing 25-10.
DeMarco returned on the next series and quickly found Williams for 41 yards and Gore for 20 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal attempt. McCallum, however, sailed it wide right and Dressler returned it out of the end zone to ensure that BC came away with no points.
The Riders would reciprocate with a 45-yard Milo field goal two possessions later to extend the lead to 28-10.
Milo added another field goal with under a minute left as the Riders escaped with a 31-17 victory.
Saskatchewan returns home to host the Edmonton Eskimos next week while the Lions head to McMahon to visit the Calgary Stampeders.