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VANCOUVER -- Buck Pierce came off the bench in the second quarter to deliver three touchdown passes, leading the BC Lions to a 43-29 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night at BC Place.
Pierce replaced an ineffective Thomas Demarco to return the Lions from a 10-1 first-quarter deficit, and with two touchdowns in each of the three remaining quarters they never looked back en-route to their 10th win of the season.
Emmanuel Arceneaux and Andrew Harris had a pair of touchdown catches in the win, while Pierce added a rushing touchdown from two yards out. Recent addition Stefan Logan, meanwhile, had a game-high 121 yards on 10 rushes, including a 54-yard touchdown run.
Mike Reilly had no shortage of big plays for Edmonton in the loss with 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as he leaned heavily on Adarius Bowman, who had a career night with 199 yards and two touchdowns on six catches.
The Eskimos came into the weekend hoping to establish some momentum heading into next season with a big divisional win over the Lions, and that couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in their second visit of the season to BC Place.
On the opening play from scrimmage, Reilly found Bowman open over the middle and the athletic receiver hit a gaping seam hard for a 71-yard touchdown to give the Eskimos a 7-0 lead, bringing the BC crowd to an eerie hush.
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Not to be outdone, the Esks’ defence also came out firing, holding DeMarco and a recently-struggling Lions’ offence to two straight two-and-outs to open the game. The Eskimos responded with another impressive drive, moving down to the six-yard-line on a 24-yard completion to Shamawd Chambers.
But the BC defence tightened up and got a sack on second down from Lin-J Shell, leading to a 23-yard boot from Hugh O’Neill to cap off the six-play scoring drive.
The defences tightened up from there, and a single point by the Lions was all either team could muster before the end of the first quarter.
Edmonton extended its lead to 12-1 to start the second quarter, after hemming the Lions deep in their own end and forcing Paul McCallum to concede a safety rather than punt the ball from his own end zone. That put an end to DeMarco's night, as he was removed from the game for the veteran Pierce, the former BC Lion who was re-acquired from Winnipeg earlier this season.
As the defences continued to control the game, fittingly momentum swayed on another big defensive play just under five minutes remaining in the half. Reilly's pass intended for Bowman was picked off by J.R. LaRose, setting the Lions up in excellent field position and injecting some life into the fans at BC Place.
The Lions only fed off that, as on the very next play Logan in just his second game back broke to the outside of the field and burst down the sideline for an electrifying 54-yard touchdown. The big play off a turnover brought the Lions to within a single score, as they trailed the Esks 12-8.
Not soon after though the Eskimos took the momentum right back. Reilly rolled out and fired deep, finding his favourite target in Bowman once again for a deep completion, as the receiver beat Cord Parks in man coverage and extended for the impressive sideline grab.
The 44-yard gain was Bowman's fourth catch of the game, giving him 154 yards in the first half alone -- although the Green and Gold failed to cash in on anything more than a 13-yard chip shot from O'Neill to make it 15-8 with 1:44 remaining in the half.
But the Lions had an answer, and suddenly Friday night's affair went from being a defensive struggle to a late second-quarter shootout. Pierce started things off with a 15-yard run to the BC 50, before completing four straight passes, including an eight-yard slip screen to Harris to finish off the drive and tie the ball game at 15 apiece.
Harris' ninth touchdown of the season capped off a quick and efficient seven-play, 75-yard drive over 1:16, and would hold up until the end of the first half.
The halftime break didn't disrupt the Lions' momentum, as the offence picked up right where it left off. Stefan Logan burned the defence again for a 35-yard run into Edmonton territory, then on a second down play Pierce threw it up for Arceneaux, who beat his man outside and hauled in the pass for a 44-yard touchdown.
It was Arceneaux's fifth touchdown of the season and gave the Lions their very first lead of the game, 22-15 early in the third.
The teams exchanged punts after that, but as the Eskimos struggled to find a spark offensively following their quick start, the Lions continued to pour it on. With starting field position up near midfield, Pierce followed up a first-down run by Harris with a throw to the end zone, leading to a pass interference penalty by Joe Burnett.
Buck Pierce replaced an ineffective Thomas DeMarco in the first half, and proved to be the difference for the Lions with three touchdown passes and another score on the ground.
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That set the Lions up at the goal line, eventually leading Harris' second touchdown reception of the game on a 2-yard catch from Pierce to put the Lions ahead 29-15.
Harris' score held up until midway through the fourth quarter, when the Lions put the game away. Reilly was intercepted for the second time in the game by Parks, who gave the offence possession down at the Edmonton 27-yard-line. From there the BC ground attack went to work, as Logan and Harris teamed up to get to the two-yard-line, where Pierce finished the drive off with a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
With Pierce's fourth touchdown of the game the Lions seized total control, leading 36-15 with just over half of the final quarter remaining.
The Eskimos battled back on the ensuing drive with one of their best possessiong of the night, as Reilly hit Bowman for a 30-yard gain into BC territory before finding Chambers for back to back completions. An 11-yard catch-and-run by Calvin McCarty to the 14 set-up Bowman's second touchdown catch of the night, pulling the Esks to within a pair of touchdowns.
With Pierce out of the game resting, Arceneaux rounded out the scoring for the Lions with his second touchdown catch of the game, this one hauled in from DeMarco to restore BC's three-touchdown lead.
The Eskimos responded with a Jonathan Crompton touchdown in the final minute, after he punched it in on the quarterback sneak from a yard out to make it a 43-29 ball game.
The Lions remain home in next weekend's finale, as they host the Calgary Stampeders in a potential playoff preview. The Eskimos, meanwhile, hit the road once again as they close out their 2013 campaign in Saskatchewan to take on the Riders.