BC Lions stay in playoff race with third straight win

VANCOUVER — A sigh of relief for the BC Lions as their playoff hopes came within a few yards of being crushed by the Montreal Alouettes.

It remains a long climb for the Lions, but they held off the Alouettes and claimed the 25-23 victory at BC Place on Saturday night.

As for the Alouettes, they could have clinched a playoff position for the first time since 2014. That hope will have to wait for now.

Lions’ Mike Reilly completed 30 of his 34 passing attempts, putting up 309 yards through the air and a touchdown. As for his young counterpart, Matthew Shiltz managed to complete 53 per cent of his passes for 177 yards. He’d also add 62 yards on the ground, as well as a touchdown.

After the first quarter, both teams exchanged field goals.

Offensively, Montreal had the upper hand with a mere 82 yards compared to BC’s 63 yards. It perhaps may be safe to say the quarter was primarily dictated by the defensive side of the ball. Shawn Lemon tallied two sacks, and teammates Odell Willis and Jonathon Newsome both recorded one each as well.

The defensive play continued to be the strength for either team as the remainder of the first half was played out.

John Bowman registered two sacks for Montreal. Also, while it may be hard to believe that it took him 14 years to do so, but Bowman hauled in his first career interception in the first half against the Lions.

Kickers would be responsible for all of the points in the first half. Sergio Castillo‘s leg would take the Lions into the locker room at halftime with the lead. He went perfect on his three field goal attempts, giving BC the 9-3 lead after two quarters of play.

In the second half, Montreal got their offence operating as Matthew Shiltz looked to get a little more comfortable in his first start of the season with Vernon Adams Jr. out on a 1-game suspension.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES QUARTERBACK MATTHEW SHILTZ PASSES DURING THE FIRST HALF OF A CFL FOOTBALL GAME AGAINST THE MONTREAL ALOUETTES IN VANCOUVER, ON SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/DARRYL DYCK

On the Alouettes’ first offensive play of the half, Eugene Lewis slipped through the Lions’ secondary coverage as Shiltz dropped the ball into his receiver’s waiting hands. Lewis went 97 yards untouched to put the Alouettes ahead 10-9.

One offensive drive later, Shiltz continued his demonstration of comfort as he’d later take off on a 29-yard scamper down to the 1-yard line. Antonio Pipkin came in for the short-yardage plunge to give the Als a 7-point advantage.

A spark was ignited for quarterback Mike Reilly and the Lions’ offence. They responded with a scoring drive of their own. Starting on their own 15-yard line, Reilly marched the Leos downfield and connected with Bryan Burnham in the front corner of the end zone. The Lions were unable to capitalize on a two-point conversion and remained trailing Montreal 17-15.

As time expired in the third quarter, Reilly and Burnham connected once again to get the Lions within the 5-yard line as they looked to claw back into the lead. As the fourth quarter got underway, Reilly handed the ball off to John White as the Lions’ running back dashed his way into the end zone.

With the score, the Lions reclaimed the lead over the Alouettes with the score at 22-17.

As Shiltz looked to respond, the Lions defence buckled down.

Looking for Quan Bray, Shiltz found his pass finding the hands of BC’s Chris Edwards as the defensive back undercut Bray’s route.

While the Lions offence was unable to move the ball, the sure-legged Castillo came in to further extend his team’s lead with a 48-yard field goal.

On a drive that remained on the ground for eight of its nine plays, Shiltz orchestrated a scoring drive with 34 yards of his own, including the 7-yard scoring run. An incomplete 2-point attempt to Devier Posey kept the Als trailing by two.

With less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Sergio Castillo lined up for a 50-yard field goal. However, despite making each of his attempts up until this point, the Alouettes’ Fabion Foote burst through the line to block the kick.

The block gave Shiltz the opportunity that Vernon Adams Jr. has done so often this season, lead a game-winning drive and bring Montreal another win for the season.

Within yards of pulling off the victory, the Alouettes fumbled the ball and were unable to get the ball across the goal line, giving Reilly and the Lions possession on their own 1-yard line and ultimately letting time run out, extending BC’s playoff hopes to another week.

Montreal will continue their road trip with a stop in Calgary to face the West Division-leading Stampeders on Saturday. The Lions will conclude another triple-header Saturday in the CFL by welcoming another East Division opponent next week when the Toronto Argonauts come into town.

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