July 9, 2011

Stampeders edge Lions in home opener

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Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Quarterback Henry Burris threw three touchdown passes, including a 61-yard play to Nik Lewis, as the Calgary Stampeders hung on to defeat the BC Lions 34-32 in a wild CFL game Friday night.

A game that was starved for excitement in the first half turned into a scoring smorgasbord in the final 30 minutes as the two teams combined for 58 points.

Quarterback Travis Lulay scored on a five-yard run with just over a minute left to bring the Lions within two points. A two-point convert attempt failed when Lulay couldn’t hit Geroy Simon with a pass in the end zone.

The Lions had one last gasp when Solomon Elimimian recovered a Stampeder fumble at mid field. Lions kicker Paul McCallum attempted a 57-yard field goal but it fell short.

A late interception by Calgary’s Keon Raymond sealed the win as the Stampeders improved their record to 1-1. Raymond’s pick resulted in a 25-yard Rene Paredes field goal.

Lewis scored on one of the prettiest runs of the night. Burris dumped him the ball on an innocent looking play. The veteran slotback made a couple quick moves, battled his way out of the grasp of Lions defensive back David Hyland, then rumbled to the end zone.

The Lions cut the lead to 28-26 early in the fourth quarter on a drive started and finished by rookie Tim Brown. First Brown returned a punt 37 yards to give the Lions good field position. He then scored on a six-yard run. The Lions attempted a two-point convert but it failed as BC dropped to 0-2 on the season.

It was the sixth consecutive time the Stampeders have beaten the Lions in Vancouver. The last time BC beat Calgary in Vancouver was Nov. 7, 2007, by a 25-24 score.

Late in the game, Lions defensive back Stanley Franks was taken off the field in a cart with an injury.

Burris also threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jon Cornish and connected with Landan Talley on a 16-yard play.

Backup quarterback Michael Bishop also scored on a two-yard run for Calgary.

Paredes, signed this week to replace the injured Rob Maver, also kicked a 50-yard field goal.

The Lions’ Lulay also threw a 54-yard touchdown to Akeem Foster and a 11-yard touchdown to Andrew Harris.

McCallum kicked field goals of 14 and 35 yards for Calgary.

After a grinding first half, where the biggest plays were mostly mistakes, the teams combined for five touchdowns in the third quarter, three of them by Calgary.

Talley returned the second-half kickoff 38 yards. That started a drive that ended with Burris hitting Cornish on a short touchdown pass.

Just over five minutes later, Brown fumbled a punt, giving Calgary a first down on the Lions’ 16 yard line. That set up Burris’ touchdown strike to Talley.

Lulay struggled in the first half, completing just three of 14 passes for 19 yards and throwing an interception. He didn’t get much help from some butter-fingered receivers. Dobson Collins dropped a sure touchdown. Steven Black and Shawn Gore both had balls hit the grass that they should have hung onto.

The red-haired quarterback and his receivers got on the same page in the third quarter. Lulay found Foster alone in the Calgary secondary. A few minutes later he dumped a short pass to Harris, who strutted into the end zone

The Lions opened the scoring in the first quarter after veteran cornerback Dante Marsh returned an interception 48 yards to the Stampeder 15-yard line. BC running back Jamal Robertson couldn’t gain a yard on a second-and-one, resulting in a field goal.

The Lions defence snuffed out a Calgary touchdown when Ryan Phillips picked off a Burris pass in the end zone. The ball hung up in the air, giving Phillips plenty of time to get into position.

The Stampeders first touchdown came after Larry Taylor returned a punt 48 yards to the BC 27. With the final seconds ticking off the clock in the half, Bishop came off the bench on the short-yardage play.

Both teams squandered scoring chances.

The Stampeders had a 43-yard Taylor touchdown catch called back because of a penalty. Calgary took eight penalties for 56 yards in the first half, killing their own monument and breathing life into Lion drives.

The game was played on a cool evening before 22,738 fans at Empire Field, the temporary facility the Lions will use until moving into the refurbished BC Place on Sept. 30. It was a night for shirt sleeves but dark clouds threatened over the north shore mountains.

Home wasn’t a friendly place for the Lions last season. BC had a 3-6 record at Empire Field, something that must be improved on if the club hopes to still be playing when Vancouver hosts the Grey Cup this November.

The Lions opened the season with a 30-26 loss to the Alouettes in Montreal. Calgary was beaten 23-21 at home by the Toronto Argonauts.