September 3, 2020

Baker’s Archives | A Thrilling Win And Photo For The Ages

Bryan Burnham stays in bounds for game-tying two-point conversion in Lions' thrilling win over Hamilton on Sept. 22. Photo: Paul Yates

It ain’t over ’till it’s over. The saying may have been originally coined by baseball great Yogi Berra. But if Yogi was ever lucky enough to witness a classic CFL finish, he would have experienced a whole new meaning to his classic sports catchphrase. In this edition of Baker’s Archives, we go back in the time machine to September 22nd of 2018 and a thrilling come from behind win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The thrilling Lions comeback included a head-scratching decision by Tiger-Cats coach June Jones to set it all up, a crazy Bryan Burnham catch that secured a game-tying two-point convert and produced one of the greatest football photos you’ll ever see and caused a post-game excitement amongst fans that didn’t waiver at all for the next couple of days on social media or local sports talk radio. The thrilling night at BC Place was classic CFL. And one of those experiences that have us excited to return to the field on time in 2021.

The Backdrop | Building On Momentum

As we chronicled in last week’s feature, the only thing consistent about the 2018 Lions once September arrived was that they were in fact inconsistent. The previous week’s victory in Montreal was the club’s first road win of the season and the first time all year they managed to string together two in a row. With a 5-6 record, they were tied with Winnipeg for fourth in the West and a crossover playoff spot.

Although the road struggles were an issue, this Lions squad could take pride in the fact they had re-established BC Place as the best home-field advantage in the CFL. Entering this contest they had won four of five on home turf.

The Ticats had come in winners of three of their last four to get to 6-6 and entered this contest two points behind Ottawa for first place in the slightly less competitive East Division. This week they would be without speedy playmaker Brandon Banks due to injury.

The Game | Thrilling Finish

It would seem pointless to mention anything that occurred in this game prior to the frantic fourth quarter. We’ll pick it up at Jeremiah Masoli’s touchdown pass to Luke Tasker that put the visitors on top 28-21 with 1:46 left on the clock. There was still plenty of time for Jonathon Jennings and the offence to work with, but after a turnover on downs on their ensuing drive, it looked to be all but ‘lights out’ for the home squad. But then things got crazy.

It all started with a tough decision by head coach June Jones on the Ticats sideline. Facing a third and seven, Jones elected to have Liram Hajrullahu pin the Lions deep with a punt. You know what happens next: after the kick went through the end zone for a single, the Ticats led by eight but Jennings and company still had a pulse with 33 seconds to go and 75 yards to hit paydirt.

After a third-down completion to DeVier Posey kept it alive, Jennings hit Shaq Johnson for a 39-yard connection to set them up at the Hamilton 20 with two seconds left. One more play, barring a penalty. Who are you gonna call? Burnham, of course. Jennings hit him in the end zone with zeroes on the clock and all of a sudden, Jones’ decision and Hajrullahu’s misdirection had given the home side a huge lifeline. But first, they had to convert another two-pointer….

The Shot | Burnham Hauls In Two-Point Attempt To Force OT

He made some crazy catches in previous seasons, but 2018 was truly Burnham’s coming out party as the CFL’s human highlight-reel. And in this particular moment, he not only made the catch but had the presence of mind to make sure he tapped the toes of his right foot on the green and not the white. Initially ruled incomplete, there was immediate suspense throughout the stadium as many fans, players and coaches claimed they saw Burnham land in bounds in real-time. Given the significance of the play and how close it looked on the field, the CFL command centre ordered the officiating crew to review the call.

Standing in the line of fire of Burnham’s crazy catch was Lions team photographer Paul Yates. Upon reviewing his incredible close up of the play, Yates could clearly see green in between Burnham’s foot and the white. As he explained in a 2018 interview with, Yates (full story from 2018 included below) had to temper his initial excitement while play was being reviewed.

“That drama was nuts after the play, nobody knew if he was in or not,” he explained.

“When I looked at the shot and zoomed in, it was awesome, I knew he was in, but I can’t cause a scene by showing it to a player or ref. Can’t do that, would cause all sorts of problems, so not cool. I still had the shot if the call was out of course, but that would have been a whole different story. So I’m glad they got it right.”

The Story Behind The Shot

The thrilling fourth-quarter comeback was complete. But the Lions still had to deal with overtime. And once again, the football Gods delivered. After the teams traded field goals on their first overtime possessions, Masoli threw two incompletions that forced Hajrullahu to trot out once again. Only this attempt went wide and the Lions would cap off the thrilling, crazy evening with Ty Long’s winning field goal from 39 yards out. Final score: Lions 32 Tiger-Cats 29 in double overtime. What a ride. Yogi Berra certainly would have been proud.

Bake’s “Inside” Takes

Besides the usual excitement and disbelief at field level that comes with a thrilling result like this, the number one post-game memory for me remains the frantic rush by Hamilton’s staff to pack up and load their equipment truck. The team was catching a commercial, red-eye flight home and this particular comeback resulted in the game likely going way later than they had anticipated when they first made their travel arrangements for the season. Even the club’s Communications Director Aaron Gogishvilli was helping throw bags onto the truck.

From highlight-reel catches to crazy late-game decisions. Baker's Archives looks back at a thrilling comeback win over Hamilton in 2018.

The Aftermath

The only downside to this result was they had to travel to Hamilton the very next week to face a Tiger-Cats squad that was, to say the least, pretty ticked off. Adding more fuel to the fire was an incident at the Lions’ Tim Hortons Field walkthrough practice the day before when a couple of rookies innocently (or so we thought) did a dancing ritual on the Ticats’ logo at mid-field. Hey, if a team needs that to get motivated, then they’re probably in the wrong business. At any rate, a couple of the Tiger-Cats vets used it as a rallying cry en route to a 40-10 win that dropped the Lions to 6-7 with five weeks to play.

The Lions simply shook it off and won the next three games to clinch a playoff spot. The rollercoaster season came to an end with another loss in Hamilton in the Eastern Semi-Final. It may have been an up and down year, but nights like the thrilling comeback on September 22nd will be remembered for a very long time.

Matt Baker: