Friday, June 1, 2018

THIRD QUARTER SURGE LIFTS LIONS OVER STAMPEDERS IN PRE-SEASON ACTION

Thanks to 19-point third quarter, the BC Lions completed the comeback and finished their first pre-season game with a win over the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Friday night.
BC Lions rookie quarterback Ricky Lloyd looked sharp in his team’s pre-season opener, taking the majority of the snaps after replacing an injured Cody Fajardo in the second quarter. The 25-year-old connected on 15 of 23 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns in his team’s 36-23 victory.
Jonathon Jennings played just a quarter and the Lions’ projected starter connected on four of five passes and 40 yards. His counterpart, Bo Levi Mitchell, stayed in the game for two drives for the Stampeders, making three of five passes for 45 yards and a rushing touchdown before moving aside for the rest of the team’s pivots.
Running back Travon Van and receivers Kevin Elliott and Ricky Collins Jr. all scored touchdowns for the Lions in the team’s win. Rene Paredes was three-for-three on his field goal attempts and Markeith Ambles scored a major, to go along with Mitchell’s, for the Stampeders.
The game’s first turnover occurred early on at McMahon. Lions’ running back Shaun Wick fumbled a hand-off from Jennings on the very first play of the game and Adam Berger recovered the football for the Stamps, bringing his team down to the Lions’ 19-yard line.
That fumble recovery brought Mitchell and co. into the contest as fans got their first look at the Stamps’ starting pivot.
To start Calgary’s first drive of the contest, Mitchell looked to Reggie Begelton in the end zone but overthrew on the toss. On second down he had his sights on Kamar Jorden, but missed once again, forcing the kick team to take the field. Paredes hit his 26-yard field goal to put the Stampeders up 3-0 early in the contest.
The Lions responded with a field goal of their own on the next drive as Jennings moved his team down the field to set up Ty Long’s 45-yard attempt and things were tied up at three.
However, it took no time at all for Calgary to grab the lead right back.
Mitchell and the Stamps marched down the gridiron on the very next drive and plunged into the end zone himself from the three-yard line for the major score. With Paredes’ completed convert kick, Calgary was up 10-3 late in the first quarter.
That appeared to be all head coach Dave Dickenson needed to see from Mitchell as Ricky Stanzi took over under centre on the team’s next possession.
Paredes scored his second field goal of the night early in the second quarter, hitting his 48-yard attempt and added to the Stampeders lead (13-3).
Cody Fajardo made his BC Lions debut as his team took to the field after Paredes’ score but the Leos weren’t able to generate any offence and Long had to punt the ball away giving the pigskin back to Stanzi and co.
A 54-yard return from Williams gave the Stampeders great field position but the Lions defence was up to the task of stopping them from taking advantage. Safety Anthony Thompson picked off Stanzi and Fajardo and his offence marched right back onto the field but, again, Long had to punt the ball away.
When the Stampeders got the ball back on the next possession, Keelan Johnson scooped up a Stampeders fumble and ran it back to the end zone for the score. Fajardo ran in for the two-point convert and the Lions cut the Stampeders lead to 13-11 with just over seven minutes left in the second quarter.
That score gave some momentum to BC, as the team’s defence held the Stampeders to a field goal late in the second quarter. Paredes nailed his third three-point attempt, adding to Calgary’s lead (16-11).
Late in the second quarter, Fajardo was sacked by Winston Rose and had to get helped off the field, giving way for Lloyd to take over under centre.
Larry Brihm took over at quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders to start the second half, marking the third quarterback in red to hit the field.
Markeith Ambles caught a 20-yard pass from Brihm to add to Calgary’s lead in the third quarter just over five minutes into the half. After a failed two-point conversion, the Stamps held a 23-11 lead over BC.
Elliott put the Lions on the board, as Lloyd threw to the pass-catcher in the end zone for the major score after moving his team down the field 54 yards. Jose Maltos competed the convert kick and the Leos cut the Stampeders lead to 23-18 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
Nick Arbuckle was the fourth quarterback to join the game for the Stampeders and on his first pass, he threw an interception to Claudell Louis.
The Lions made the Stamps pay for that turnover, as Van scored a one-yard major and gave his team their first lead of the contest. BC was unsuccessful on their two-point convert and held a one-point lead late in the third quarter (24-23).
BC continued to pile it on in the third quarter. A blocked punt from 2018 draft pick David Mackie led to an 11-yard touchdown Ricky Collins Jr., one of the Lions’ off-season acquisitions. That major score gave the Lions a 30-23 lead to end the quarter.
Maltos added to his team’s lead, hitting two field goals late in the fourth quarter (the first from 48 yards and the second from 23) as the Lions defeated the Stampeders 36-23.
The Calgary Stampeders head to Saskatchewan next week to take on the Roughriders while the BC Lions play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the final week of pre-season action.

BOWMAN, STREVELER SHINE AS BOMBERS OUST ESKS

Adarius Bowman made his former team pay early, while quarterback Chris Streveler was just about perfect as the Bombers took care of the Edmonton Eskimos 33-13 on Friday night in pre-season action.
Starting quarterback Matt Nichols connected with Bowman for a 15-yard touchdown in his first game as a Bomber, while the Blue and Gold never looked back to pick up a ‘W’ in their first exhibition game of 2018.
Taking his first snaps in the three-down game, Streveler seemed like he could do no wrong in his pursuit of a backup quarterback job, completing his first eight passes for 132 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown by Myles White to put the game out of reach, punctuating an eye-opening performance in front of an excited crowd at Investors Group Field.
Streveler finished the game 10-for-10 with 140 yards and a touchdown in his CFL debut, while Nichols exited in the first half after completing seven of 13 attempts for 107 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
With most of the Eskimo starters omitted from the depth chart, including top two quarterbacks Mike Reilly and Kevin Glenn, Zach Kline failed to take advantage of his first ever start, completing just three of 11 passes including an interception.
Running back Jordan Robinson was a bright spot for the second straight week, returning a punt 98 yards to open the scoring, marking his second touchdown in as many weeks.
Now head coach Jason Maas will try to find some positives as he gets his club ready for the rematch in the regular season opener on June 14, while the Bombers still have one pre-season game remaining in BC.
Bombers fans received an early scare when Nichols exited the game with an apparent injury to his non-throwing hand following a sack. Nichols would return, but not before the Eskimos would strike with Robinson’s second touchdown of the pre-season, an electrifying 98-yard punt return.
After a second straight two-and-out to open the game, the Bombers’ offence settled in with a little help from reigning Most Outstanding Canadian Andrew Harris. Harris moved the sticks twice, once on a reception and once on a six-yard run, setting up a 15-yard touchdown by Bowman.
Bowman would finish with two catches for 46 yards in his debut, while another big name playing his first game with the team, Adam Bighill, checked in with a pair of tackles.
A promising Bombers drive stalled just outside the 20-yard-line when Nicholas Taylor sacked Nichols for an eight-yard loss. Justin Medlock‘s 38-yard field goal gave Winnipeg a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.
Soon after, Nichols made his first mistake of the pre-season when his pass intended for Bowman floated up on him and into the hands of Taylor, who continued his strong game with a 51-yard interception return. A roughing the passer penalty kept the offence on the field, but the Kline couldn’t take advantage, while Sean Whyte‘s 37-yard field goal attempt veered wide.
Medlock’s second field goal of the game, this one from 34 yards out, extended the Bombers’ lead to six points, and with that Kline’s first half was finished after completing just two of his seven passing attempts for 48 yards and an interception.
Danny O’Brien came into the game and completed two of his passes, and Whyte made no mistake on his second field goal attempt from 46 yards out to pull the Eskimos back to within three.
The Bombers switched back and forth between Streveler and Ross, but the latter struggled to get anything going. Ross completed just one pass on eight attempts for eight yards, while Streveler completed three quick passes to set up an 18-yard touchdown romp by Canadian back and 2017 combine star Johnny Augustin.
Augustin had a nice night running the ball for the Bombers, finishing with 81 rushing yards on eight carries along with a major.
After taking a 20-10 lead to the locker-room, Streveler was back in the game and able to maintain his early success, completing three more passes and eventually setting up a 25-yard field goal by Felix Menard-Briere to make it 23-10 Winnipeg.
While the Eskimos switched back and forth between Kline and O’Brien, with the former helping set up a 51-yard field goal by Whyte, the Bombers blew the game wide open shortly after. Streveler continued to plead his case for the primary backup job, connecting with Myles White for an impressive 80-yard catch-and-run and extending Winnipeg’s lead to 30-13.
Menard-Briere’s field goal with 25 seconds left made it 33-13 Winnipeg. Both he and Medlock finished 2-for-2 on field goals.
O’Brien had the best night of the Esks’ quarterbacks, completing nine of 14 attempts for 57 yards in his bid for the third-string job. Eli Jenkins did enter the game late but completed his only pass for a loss of six yards, adding a 12-yard run at the end of the game.
After a breakout performance last week, Shaq Cooper was far less involved, carrying the ball once for minus-three yards and adding a short reception.
Outside of Robinson’s touchdown, the Eskimos were able to muster very little in their final tune-up before the regular season. Winnipeg had a 22-9 margin in first downs and an even more impressive 412 yards to Edmonton’s 151. Penalties were also an issue for Maas’ club, with the Eskimos racking up 101 yards on 12 infractions.
Of course, many of the Eskimos playing in Friday night’s contest will not be in the starting lineup when they kick off the season on June 14 in the exact same place, against the exact same team.
While the Eskimos’ attention shifts to two weeks from now, the Bombers are back in action Friday when they travel to BC for one last tune-up against the Lions.

BIG SECOND QUARTER PROPELS ARGOS TO PRE-SEASON WIN OVER TICATS

McLeod Bethel-Thompson turned the tide on the hype surrounding his positional counterparts from the opposing sideline as the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 36-18 in the first game of either team’s preseason schedule.
Bethel-Thompson took the helm of Argos signal-caller for the entire first half of play at Tim Hortons Field on Friday night.
With Ricky Ray not dressing for Toronto, Argos head coach Marc Trestman handed the reigns to Bethel-Thompson as the Boatmen look for a strong backup to Ray, and he stepped up to the task passing for 122 yards on nine of 11 passing attempts to go along with two touchdowns.
Trestman stuck with his quarterback through the duration of the opening half, while Hamilton stuck with their projected starter in Jeremiah Masoli.
Masoli finished the night completing eight of his 13 pass attempts for 115 yards. The sixth-year man showed signs of struggle through his given reps, throwing two interceptions to go with the Tiger-Cats six first-half turnovers.
The Argonauts defence flexed their muscles early on in the first quarter, forcing two turnovers. Toronto capitalized on their second forced turnover, scoring off of a 42-yard field goal by Swayze Waters.
Bethel-Thompson settled things down after a slow start for either team’s offence on Toronto’s next offensive drive following a quick two-and-out by Masoli and the Ticats offence. After gambling on third down, Bethel-Thompson connected with Chandler Worthy for a 3-yard touchdown pass, putting the Boatmen up 10-0.
Holding onto the ball became an ongoing issue for the Tiger-Cats in the opening quarter, turning the ball over five times. Hamilton’s Nikita Whitlock would be responsible for two of three Ticats fumbles.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel got his first taste of action in a real-game situation with less than four minutes remaining in the first half. The former NFL first-round draft pick came in, completing three of three passes for 28 yards and committing a sack before halftime.
Bethel-Thompson’s second pass for a score came on a quick dump to running back Branden Burks, who took care of things from there after switching direction twice before breaking free for the corner of the end zone for the score.
Toronto started the second half with former Eskimo James Franklin in at quarterback, but his new threads quickly met the turf at Tim Hortons Field after being hauled down by Ticats’ first-round draft pick Connor McGough.
The Argos continued to extend their lead in the third quarter after James Franklin plunged in from one-yard out.
Manziel showed glimpses of his abilities that earned him the Heisman Trophy during his time at Texas A&M, passing for 80 yards after playing the entire third quarter behind centre for the Black and Gold, completing nine of 12 attempts through the air.
Hamilton got themselves a late spark from kick return-man Frankie Williams after fielding a 43-yard punt and returning it 73 yards for the touchdown as time expired for the third quarter.
Facing the team he won a Grey Cup with less than a year ago, Ticats’ Lirim Hajrullahu knocked through a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter as the Tiger-Cats pushed to narrow the Argos lead to 33-16.
Shortly thereafter, the Argonauts answered back with their own field goal off the boot of Waters from 32 yards out.
As the final minutes ticked away, the Argos managed the clock, putting the cap on their victory in Hamilton on a night that saw June Jones’ offence commit six turnovers. Toronto capitalized off of those mistakes, eventually defeating the Tiger-Cats 36-18.
Toronto will take on the Ottawa REDBLACKS at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Field on Thursday, June 7 at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, the Ticats will take off to Montreal to take on the Alouettes the following Saturday with kickoff scheduled for noon.