BC Lions feast in opening game win over Elks

VANCOUVER — The BC Lions played host to the Edmonton Elks to close out the first Saturday night doubleheader of the season.

The matchup saw both teams feature new quarterbacks under centre. For the Leos, Nathan Rourke made his debut start as the new starting quarterback for BC. On the opposing sideline, Nick Arbuckle made his first start as the quarterback for Edmonton.

However, it was Nathan Rourke who definitively won the battle, helping to lead BC to a 59-15 win in Saturday night’s Week 1 finale.

After the decision to retire by long-time CFL quarterback Michael Reilly, Rourke was called upon to take over the starting job for the Lions entering the new season.

In his debut as the starting quarterback for the Orange and Black, Rourke put together an impressive performance finishing the game completing 26 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns, while adding another 78 yards and two touchdowns with his legs.

Rourke wasn’t the only BC sophomore who made their impact felt. Running back James Butler had a performance to remember, finishing his night with an eye-popping, 108 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.

» Boxscore: Elks, Lions by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Elks at Lions 

BC Lions QB Nathan Rourke heading to the end zone for one of 2 TDs on the night Photo: Canadian Press


In a very full house, fans at BC Place were treated to an electric performance from OneRepublic, setting the mood for the Lions’ season opener prior to kickoff.

The Lions looked energized right from the opening kickoff and it didn’t take long for the pair of BC second-years to make their presence felt.

Rourke completed his first five passes of the game, before calling his own number on a second and short to extend the drive. With the fresh set of downs, Rourke was able to connect with Butler on a ten yard pass for the games first touchdown.

On the opening drive for the Elks’ offence, Nick Arbuckle wasted no time getting the pass game going, finding Kenny Lawler for a 20-yard pick up with his first pass of the game. Edmonton, would be held short, but answered the BC score with a 35-yard field goal from Sergio Castillo.

On his second drive, Arbuckle was once again looking to put the ball in the air. However, veteran defensive back T.J. Lee was lurking in coverage, coming away with the interception.

Off of the turnover, the Lions called on Butler once again. This time getting things done on the ground with a 36-yard touchdown run for his second major of the opening quarter.

With Arbuckle and the Elks driving downfield, he looked to Lawler for a big play, connecting  for an 18-yard pick up. A stingy Lions defence was able to limit any further damage, holding the Elks to a field goal to open the second quarter.

Through the second quarter Butler continued to be relied on for the Lions offence, scoring his third touchdown of the game on a 21-yard run to help give the Lions a 21-6 lead. Butler’s three touchdowns to start the game matched his season total from 2021.

The play from Butler seemed to provide a spark for the Orange and Black defence, which came out strong on the ensuing series. Lions newcomers,  Sione Teuhema was able to get to Arbuckle for a sack, forcing the Elks to punt.

After completing all eight of his passing attempts in the first quarter, Rourke continued to build on an already impressive evening.

With the ball back, the BC pivot completed five straight passes, including a 6-yard pass which found it’s way to Butler for his third touchdown of the quarter and fourth touchdown of the game. Noting the first time a Lion has scored four touchdowns in a game since Geroy Simon.

The Lions pivot looked to be invigorated by the performance of his teammate. On the following drive, Rourke showed off his speed with a 33-yard dash to push his team into scoring territory. On the goal line, Rourke called his own number, scoring on a two-yard keeper.

Late into the second quarter, 2022 draft pick Tre Ford made his regular season debut under centre for the Green and Gold. After a nice scramble and an eight-yard connection with Emmanuel Arceneaux on his opening drive, Ford was quickly held in check by the BC defence.

On his second drive for the Elks, Ford was looking downfield for Mike Jones, but Lee once again made a nice play on the ball for his second interception of the game.

The Lions wasted no time taking advantage of the turnover. With less than a minute in the first half, Rourke engineered a quick scoring drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to second year receiver, Keon Hatcher to give the Leos a 42-6 first half lead.

After a quick break in the second quarter, Arbuckle was back under centre  to start second half for Edmonton. Arbuckle completed five straight passes to open the quarter, including a 17-yard pass to Derel Walker to put the Elks on the goal-line.

Following the strike to Walker, Kai Locksley was called upon to punch in the short-yardage score, the first touchdown of the game from the Double E.

Looking to build on the third quarter momentum, Arbuckle came out firing on all-cylinders completing another five consecutive passes to help push Edmonton into the red zone. However, Lions rookie Tuehema brought Arbuckle down for his second sack of the night. Forcing the Elks to bring out Castillo for a 30-yard field goal try.

Rourke continued his best rendition of a Butler impersonation in the third quarter. With their second drive in the new half, the second-year quarterback carried the ball three times including a 17-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the game.

Lions newcomer, Matthieu Betts got to make his first start against his former team. With an opportunity to put his pads on his former team, Betts made his presence felt in the fourth quarter. Clawing his way into the backfield to bring Arbuckle down for his first sack as a member of the Orange and Black.

The Lions defence didn’t stop there, on the very next drive they were able to force another turnover. This time it was off-season signee, Lucheiz Purifoy who was able to come up with an interception off of Arbuckle. The BC defence would force four interceptions by the end of the game.

Following the interception from Purifoy, it would be Michael O’Connor replacing Rourke for the remainder of the night. With O’Connor in the game, it marked the third Canadian quarterback to be featured in Saturday night’s action.

The former University of British Columbia quarterback, was able to convert on an opportunity from the goal line to close out the game, giving the Lions quarterbacks a combined three rushing touchdowns.

With a Week 2 bye, Rourke and the Lions will have to wait a week to hit the field a again. They will host the Toronto Argonauts in Week 3 as they look to build on their impressive season opener.

The Elks will look to have a bounce back game in front of their home crowd as they get set for their Week 2 home opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Today's CFL is more than just our great game of football. It's fans sharing their excitement for what they see on the field, and what they experience off it. Stay up to date on all the non-stop action at CFL.ca.