BC Lions claw past Hamilton in tight defensive battle

VANCOUVER — In a defensive back and forth between that lasted well into the fourth quarter, it was the BC Lions who would prevail over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to claim a win in the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader.

In what is seemingly becoming a weekly routine, BC quarterback Nathan Rourke put together an impressive performance to lead his team to a 17-12 win in Week 7. The young star completed 22 of his 30 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Ticats.

James Butler continued to be a source of offensive consistency within the BC offence, contributing to the win on multiple levels. Butler carried the ball 13 time for 76 yards, he also tallied 28 receiving yards on four catches.

However, in the passing game it was Lucky Whitehead who led the pride of Lions receivers, reeling in eight of his nine targets for 111 yards and a touchdown in the game. Jevon Cottoy also contributed a touchdown in the game, reeling in all three of his targets.

» Box Score: Ticats, Lions by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Ticats at Lions
» Watch: Lucky Whitehead gets his first TD of the season

BC Lions RB James Butler #24 escaping Hamilton defenders Photo: Canadian Press

After having a week off with a bye in Week 6, the Lions certainly looked eager to be back on the field to start the game. On the opening play for the BC offence, Rourke connected with Whitehead for a 43-yard completion, already putting the Lions in position to score.

The Hamilton defence pushed back, forcing the BC offence into a third down and two. The Leos left their offence on the field and called on Rourke to convert the quarterback sneak.

The BC pivot appeared to have the yardage, but after a measurement by the officials, Rourke was held short and the Ticats took over possession on downs.

The Lions defence was able to match the quick start from the Ticats. A sack from defensive linebacker Josh Woods helped force the Hamilton offence off the field in just three plays.

Looking to build on the momentum of the first drive, Rourke was once again looking for a connection downfield with Whitehead, however the pass bounced off his shoulder pads and fell into the hands of Hamilton defensive lineman Julian Howsare for an interception.

On their next possession following the interception, the Lions offence seemed determined to overcome their less than desirable start. Butler broke free for a 37-yard run, before Rourke found receiver, Dominique Rhymes for a 22-yard completion.

BC would not be successful in finding the end zone, but kicker, Sean Whyte split the uprights on a 37-yard field goal attempt for the first score of the game.

Hamilton began to put together a responsive drive of their own, but the drive would be paused by a third down and one on the BC 18-yard line. Electing to keep their offence on the field, quarterback Matthew Schiltz converted the short yardage third down to help extend the Tabbies’ drive.

The Ticats would be held out of the end zone with the fresh set of downs, but kicker Seth Small would connect on a 14-yard field goal attempt to tie the game early in the second quarter.

With their second possession of the new quarter BC started to drive down the field. Rourke completed four straight passes and converted a quarterback sneak on a third down and one to extend the drive for his team.

Standing on the Hamilton 14-yard line Rourke dropped back to pass, and looking toward the end zone he fired a pass that found Jevon Cottoy for the touchdown, helping his team to regain the lead.

With six seconds remaining the Ticats once again brought out Small, this time to attempt a 41-yarder, but Small would miss from long-range as the Lions held onto a 10-6 lead to end the first half.

Hamilton received the kickoff to open the second half of action, but it was the BC defence that opened the frame making plays. Evans connected with White for what looked to be a nice gain to set up a first down, however defensive back Quincy Mauger forced a fumble that his team was able to recover.

The Ticats defensive appeared to have limited the damage following the turnover, forcing the Lions into a third down. As BC got set to kick the field goal, full back David Mackie took the direct snap to convert the fake field goal attempt for the Lions.

With the new set of downs, Rourke stepped up into the pocket on a second and 15 to deliver a 33-yard touchdown pass to Whitehead to extend the BC lead. The score from Whitehead gives him his first touchdown reception of the season.

Following the score from the BC offence, Evans and the Hamilton offence looked determined to put together a scoring drive of their own. Needing just six play, Evans found Steven Dunbar Jr. In the end zone with a beautifully placed ball for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

Hamilton would fail on the two-point conversion attempt as BC assumed a 17-12 lead nearing the end of the third quarter.

The methodical defensive back and forth continued into the fourth quarter, with both teams forcing two and outs against one another early in the final frame of action.

Midway through the final quarter the Ticats offence began to work their way downfield in hopes of gaining control over the lead. Evans led the drive completing five passes for 62 yards, before converting a crucial quarterback sneak on third and one to extend the Hamilton drive.

After two big defensive stops, the Lions defence had the Ticats offence on their heels. Evans dropped back to pass on third down, looking for White in the end zone, however, BC defensive back Marcus Sayles made a great play in coverage to break up the pass and halt what appeared to be a promising Ticats drive.

Looking to build on the momentum of the big defensive stop, the Lions offence went right back to their passing attack. As Rourke fired a pass towards the sideline, Hamilton defensive back Tunde Adeleke read the play immediately and jumped in front of the pass for an interception.

Hamilton would be unable to convert on the opportunity from the Adeleke takeaway as BC’s defence held strong to force a turnover on downs.

Starting from their own 20-yard line with 26 seconds remaining in the game, the Ticats would have one final drive to attempt a comeback win for a second straight week. However, the field position proved to be too great BC defensive back Gary Peters came away with an interception on the final play of the game.

Looking ahead to next week the Lions will travel to Saskatchewan for Week 8, while the Tiger-Cats will be looking to rebound against the division rival Toronto Argonauts.

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