BC Lions clinch post season spot with road win over Elks

EDMONTON — The BC Lions have punched their ticket to the Grey Cup playoffs with a 37-29 win over the Edmonton Elks on Friday night.

The Elks scored a major to move within six points with under three minutes left in the game and had a chance to march down the field for the win but BC’s defence forced the turnover on downs and kicker Sean Whyte pushed the lead back to nine to clinch the victory.

Pivot Vernon Adams Jr. and running back Taquan Mizzell each had a pair of scores to help the Leos move to 10-4 and secure a post-season spot for the Orange and Black. Coupled with the Saskatchewan Roughriders loss to the Ottawa REDBLACKS earlier on Friday, the result also granted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a home playoff date.

BC lost the turnover battle but relied on an explosive offence to pick up the slack as Mizzell finished with 112 rushing yards, including a 48-yard touchdown in the second half that helped put things away.

Adams Jr. connected for majors with receivers Justin McInnis and Jevon Cottoy but also threw a couple of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Elks’ defensive back Kai Gray.

Edmonton’s quarterback Tre Ford was under pressure all night against BC’s defensive line and completed 19-of-25 passes for 175 yards and a pair of scores to wide receiver Dillon Mitchell. It was only Edmonton’s second loss in their last six games, dropping the team to 4-11 and last place in the West Division.

The Lions opened the game with a well-orchestrated seven-play 69-yard drive to take an early lead over the Elks. Adams Jr. completed five short passes to three different receivers, the last one with the veteran pump faking to the right before finding a wide open McInnis to the left with a five-yard touchdown pass.

BC’s second drive on offence wasn’t anywhere near as successful. Two plays into the possession, Adams Jr. was looking for Alexander Hollins on an out route to the right but Gray jumped the pass and ran it back for a score to tie the game at seven with 5:49 left in the first quarter.

The veteran quarterback bounced back the next time he had the ball, quickly throwing a 57-yard scoring strike to a streaking Cottoy to take a 14-7 lead.

Returner Terry Williams – fresh off scoring a 120-yard return touchdown in Week 15 – had a 68-yard punt return late in the first quarter to move the Lions all the way to Edmonton’s 24-yard line. This time it was the running game taking care of business as Mizzell hit a huge hole to the right of the line for his second major of the season. The board showed 21-7 heading into the second quarter.

Edmonton’s defence gave their team a boost once more by turning the ball over. Adams Jr. went to receiver Lucky Whitehead over the middle but defensive back Darrius Bratton fought for the ball and ended up with the interception. The offence wasn’t able to capitalize on the takeaway though and had to punt the ball back to the visitors with 3:58 to go in the half.

The Elks forced another turnover with a fumble on Mizzell at midfield and Ford immediately went to work. The young pivot found receiver Eugene Lewis on a comeback route to move into BC territory before handing it off to running back Shannon Brooks for another first down. Ford then connected with Mitchell for a 10-yard major that cut the lead back to seven points.

Whyte added three points for the Leos with a short field goal preceded by a 57-yard connection between Adams Jr. and Keon Hatcher late in the half. There was still time for the Elks to score three of their own with Dean Faithfull from 41 yards out as the Lions led 24-17 going into halftime.

Faithfull missed his first kick in 13 attempts as the ball sailed through the back of the end zone for a single in favour of the home team early in second half.

The Elks continued to slowly chip away at BC’s lead with another field goal by Faithfull from 42 yards out to make it a three-point game with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The visitors found a way to keep their lead when Mizzell rushed through a hole on the left of the offensive line for 48 yards to push the score to 31-21.

Defensive back Quincy Mauger sacked Ford to stop a promising Elks drive and force the home team to punt the ball back. The kick was deflected by defensive lineman Joshua Archibald and BC recovered the ball at midfield to set up their offence with great field position one more time. That led to another field goal by Whyte that extended the lead to 34-21 with 6:08 left in the fourth quarter.

A pass-interference penalty by defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper gave the Elks a chance to put together a scoring march of their own and they made the most of it. Ford threaded the needle to receiver Kyran Moore on third-and-six for a fresh set of downs before finding Mitchell in the end zone for their second touchdown connection of the game. The score read 34-28 with just under three minutes to go.

Edmonton’s defence then forced a quick punt from BC to give their offence a chance to take the lead, but Ford and the offence turned it over on downs in only three plays. Whyte then split the uprights one final time to extend the lead to nine points.

The Elks added a single when Faithfull’s late field goal attempt sailed right for the final score of the game.

The Lions return home in Week 17 to host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday, September 29, at the BC Place. The Elks meanwhile head into their bye before traveling to Toronto in Week 18 to face the Argonauts on Friday, October 6 at BMO Field.

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