BC Lions stun Edmonton Eskimos in 2nd half comeback

VANCOUVER — It was a tale of two halves at BC Place on Friday night, as the BC Lions reversed a 20-10 halftime deficit to earn a stunning 31-23 win over the visiting Edmonton Eskimos.

The Lions offence roared to life in the third quarter, while the defence allowed zero third-quarter first downs; the end result was 18-straight points and a Lions win on a night when hope initially seemed lost for the hosts.

Quarterback Travis Lulay completed 16 of 29 passes in the win for BC, throwing a touchdown and interception in the process.

The real story of the night, however, was the Lions defence, which limited Edmonton to just three second-half points and consistently stone-walled Mike Reilly and the Esks offence down the stretch.

KEVIN ELLIOTT PACED ALL LIONS RECEIVERS WITH 79 YARDS IN THE WIN. (CFL.CA PHOTO/JOHANY JUTRAS)

The visitors struck on the first drive of the night, as Reilly capped an eight-play, 71-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nate Behar — the latter’s first in the CFL — to open the scoring; Sean Whyte’s convert made it 7-0 Esks.

Emmanuel Arceneaux sparked the BC offence late in the first quarter, racing 39 yards on a pitch-and-catch with Lulay; the drive ultimately stalled, and the Lions settled for a 25-yard field goal from kicker Ty Long.

Edmonton then went into its bag of tricks early in the second quarter, converting a fake field-goal on a 3rd-and-6. Danny O’Brien shifted from holder to under centre, then found 288-lb. D-tackle Almondo Sewell for his first career reception.

Four plays later, Reilly snuck the ball over the goal line from the one-yard line for a touchdown — Whyte’s convert extended the Esks lead to 14-3.

Chris Rainey responded for the Lions later in the second quarter, accelerating then weaving his way to a 79-yard punt-return touchdown; Long’s convert cut BC’s deficit to four points.

The Lions thought they had taken the lead late in the first half, when Lulay connected with Bryan Burnham in the end zone only to have the touchdown called back on a Jovan Olafioye holding penalty.

Edmonton turned the game on its head on the very next play, as Lulay dropped a fluttering screen pass into the hungry arms of Esks linebacker Korey Jones; the Wyoming product raced the ball back to the BC 15-yard line, where a diving Lulay prevented the touchdown.

The very next play landed the visitors in the end zone, as Reilly found Derel Walker behind the uprights for a major; Whyte curled his convert wide right, but the three-play sequence still resulted in a pivotal 13-point swing, and sent Edmonton to the locker room up 20-10.

Lulay and the Lions came out swinging to begin the second half, engineering a six-play, 72-yard drive that ended in the end zone via a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Elliott; Long’s convert narrowed the lead to three.

BC then tied the game on its next possession, as Long drilled a 51-yard field goal to draw the hosts level.

Coordinator Mark Washington’s Lions defence continued to stymie the Esks, and BC took the lead on the final play of the third quarter: a long punt single by Long.

Momentum swung further in the Leos’ favour early in the fourth quarter, when Otha Foster sacked Reilly — knocking the ball loose in the process — and recovered the loose ball on the Edmonton eight-yard line.

One play later, Travon Van bounced outside and found pay dirt, racing to a touchdown; the two-point convert fell incomplete and BC’s lead stood at 27-20.

The Esks cut into the lead on the following drive, as Whyte booted a 40-yard field goal to narrow the gap to four.

Edmonton’s defence appeared to swing momentum back with five minutes to play, stripping Lulay and coming up — Alex Bazzie specifically — with the loose ball.

That lasted all of one play, however, as Reilly’s first pass was tipped by Foster into the arms of Winston Rose; three plays later, a 34-yard kick from Long restored the seven-point advantage.

A further punt single from Long made it 31-23 and rounded out the scoring on the night.

With the Esks driving late, Garry Peters sealed the win for the Lions with an interception in his own end zone on a Reilly pass intended for Duke Williams.

With the victory, BC moved to 3-4 on the season; the Lions will travel across the country in Week 10 for a Saturday afternoon date with the Argonauts (2-5) in Toronto (4 p.m. ET).

The win could be a turning point in the season for Wally Buono’s team, which is now a perfect 3-0 at BC Place on the season.

The loss dropped the Eskimos to 5-3, and Jason Maas’s group will now return home to face the Montreal Alouettes (1-6) next Saturday (7 p.m. MT, 9 p.m. ET) at Commonwealth Stadium.

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