The BC Lions day was long to say the least. An early morning charter to Regina followed by an hour-long power outage after halftime tested the road-ready Lions but BC outlasted the Saskatchewan Roughriders 28-16 Saturday night as they opened up their pre-season on a winning note.
The talk all off-season for the Roughriders was the health of quarterback Darian Durant and how he would respond after a year away from the field, rehabbing his injured Achilles. Rider fans would have to wait another week as resting Durant gave way to rookie QB B.J. Coleman who go the start.
Coleman got into a groove early, completing a quick pass to Naaman Roosevelt before throwing a hitch screen to veteran SB Rob Bagg. The Queen’s product tool the swing and turned up field for a 55-yard gain to set up a Tyler Crapigna field goal.
The Lions countered with a former Rider pivot in Keith Price who will be vying for a spot behind Jonathon Jennings and Travis Lulay in a unique quarterback setup in BC.
Price’s first drive ended abruptly but was able to capitalize on a BC interception to help set up a Richie Leone field goal to tie the game at three midway through the first quarter.
Coleman only played three possessions in the first quarter but would re-enter the game later in the half. Brett Smith entered the game with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter. Smith took a few big hits and completed a 12-yard pass to receiver John Chiles to set up another Crapigna field goal on his first possession.
The second quarter began with the Riders up by three and Jonathon Jennings taking control of the Lions offence.
After a pair of stalled drives, Jennings settled in. A short scamper, followed by a 46-yard pass to Emmanuel Arceneaux set the Lions up in Saskatchewan territory. Jennings promptly threw a strike to Shawn Gore who reeled in a 24-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
As the Lions offence woke up so too did their defence. Third-year defensive back Ronnie Yell took a tipped pass when Coleman re-entered the game and returned it 50 yards for a major.
The Lions entered halftime with an 18-6 advantage.
Both teams had plenty of time to reflect on the half that was with a power outage, lasting approximately one hour taking over the city of Regina and delaying the contest.
Coleman regained control of the Riders’ huddle when the second half finally got underway. Meanwhile, it was Lulay entering the game under centre for the Leos.
After the Lions conceded a single off a missed 48-yard Crapigna field goal, Lulay, aided by a pass interference penalty on Ed Gainey, helped get BC in position to put a 41-yard field goal on the board to extend the lead to 21-9 with just over three minutes left in the third.
BC added to their lead shortly thereafter as the fourth quarter got underway. A fumble by rookie Ricky Collins on a punt return set the Lions up at the Saskatchewan 13-yard line. Two quick incompletions by Lulay led to another Leone field goal.
After sitting silent since the first quarter, the Riders offence stepped up halfway through the fourth quarter when Coleman heaved a pass down the far sideline which landed in the hands of Clarence Denmark. The former Winnipeg Blue Bomber receiver, shed a tackle and capped off a 54-yard touchdown reception with a dive into the endzone to close the gap to 21-16.
A Leone field goal with 2:08 remaining would ice the victory for the Lions.
BC returns home to host the Calgary Stampeders in their pre-season finale on Friday, while the Riders close out their exhibition with a trip to Edmonton next Saturday.