Lions lock up the wild west
The B.C. Lions will once again host the CFL West Final at B.C. Place this year after an impressive 39 to 19 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday. The game was extremely tight until the 4th quarter when the Lions blew it open, scoring 20 points in the final 10:20 of the contest.
Injuries continued to change the look of the Lions’ starting roster, however the teams’ backups got the job done…again. Geroy Simon, Arland Bruce and Khalif Mitchell were all scratches, but to many fans’ surprise their beloved QB Travis Lulay was also not playing.
Backup quarterback Mike Reilly got his first CFL start Friday night, and made the most of it. Lulay was ruled out just an hour prior to kick-off due to a shoulder injury. He still dressed in case of emergency, but spent the game calling in signals to Reilly.
Lulay and Reilly are extremely close off the field, and that chemistry led to a seemingly easy transition for the team from one QB to the other. With the exception of an early interception by Reilly, the offense really didn’t seem to miss a beat.
Fans have become accustomed to this adapt-and-conquer approach the Leos have developed in the second half of this season.
There have been significant injuries affecting the lineup for each of the past three games, but the Lions have marched on, winning all three match-ups. Solid defense and special teams play have certainly helped ease the pain of losing key starters on offense.
B.C. is boldly proving why they are the defending champs, and the stand alone team to beat heading into the 2012 postseason.
Offensive Game Ball
For the first time in what seems like forever, RB Andrew Harris had a relatively quiet game on Friday night. However he reached an impressive milestone in the process. Harris became just the ninth Canadian to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season. This is also his career high rushing yards total, although the 25-year old is sure to surpass that in the years to come.
My game ball goes to the very impressive, very poised backup QB Mike Reilly. Lulay is undoubtedly the best QB in the CFL, and maybe even the best overall player in the league, and there’s no question he makes the Lions better when he’s on the field.
But with him sidelined due to injury, Mike Reilly stepped up admirably and proved he is ready for the CFL game. Reilly had never started a game prior to Friday and was largely unknown across the country.
His solid performance against Edmonton may have changed that. It is a great feeling for B.C. to know they have a very capable second stringer ready to jump in at any moment and hold things together.
Reilly went 19 of 28 passing for 276 yards and two touchdowns. With the exception of an early first quarter pick, Reilly’s throws were very accurate and thrown on-a-rope.
The six foot three import has no shortage of arm strength to add to his quick feet and stellar rushing ability.
It is likely he will start again vs. the Calgary this coming Friday night.
The Lions have already cemented first place and a first round playoff bye, so resting Lulay is the smart choice for the club, especially with a backup who could start on virtually any other team in the nation.
Defensive Game Ball
The Lions’ defense certainly is the best in the league and displayed their dominance registering eight QB sacks against the Eskies. B.C. ranks second in team sacks behind Winnipeg. Six different Lions recorded a sack in Friday’s game, including two from both Brandon Jordan and Adam Bighill.
Bighill tallied four solo tackles along with his sacks and earned himself my defensive game ball. Bighill has been all over the field this season reeking havoc on opposing offenses.
His great pass rushing skills help in the sack category, but his cover skills are even more helpful for the orange and white. With 88 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions Bighill would normally be a shoe-in for the Defensive Player of the Year award, however this season has been sensational for Edmonton’s J.C. Sherritt.
Rounding out the great defensive play Friday night was another sack for league-leader Keron Williams, and an interception for longtime Lions DB Ryan Phillips.
Special Teams Game Ball
This game ball is tough to hand out each week, because the Lions have two standout players in this phase of the game. KR/RB Tim Brown had a stellar game in a few aspects. He returned four kickoffs for 82 yards, five punts for 102 yards, caught two passes for 34 yards, and rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown. The other standout, timeless kicker Paul McCallum, went 6/6 on field goals and 3/3 on extra points.
I realize some of Brown’s stats are not part of special teams, but what a game!
I have to call this week’s game ball a tie between Brown and McCallum. I hope they are okay with that. As a Lions fan I sure am.
Be sure to check out the Lions take on the Calgary Stampeders on TSN Friday night.
Game time is 9:00pm eastern, 6:00pm pacific.