CFL: BC Lions win season opener at home over Montreal Alouettes

VANCOUVER — Jonathon Jennings and the BC Lions clawed their way to a 22-10 home victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the Week 1 Canadian Football League finale on Saturday night. The Lions’ versatile quarterback got his 2018 season off to a hot start, completing 20 of 24 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a career-high 57 yards on the ground. BC’s defence and special teams did their part as well, adding five sacks along with two field goals and 134 return yards to help hand Montreal their 12th-straight loss.

The Alouettes came out strong on their opening possession, with running back Tyrell Sutton carrying the ball five-straight times to put the Lions’ defence on their heels. Receiver B.J. Cunningham appeared to give Montreal the early lead with a long 52-yard touchdown catch, but the play was called back on a holding penalty.

Drew Willy and the Als’ offence made up for it just two plays later after the veteran quarterback found receiver Chris Williams deep down the field for a 56-yard connection. The ball was knocked loose before Williams could cross the goal line, but receiver Eugene Lewis was there to recover it in the end zone for his first career CFL touchdown. Kicker Boris Bede added the extra point to give Montreal the early 7-0 lead.

Jennings looked sharp on the BC Lions’ second offensive drive, zipping a slant pass to receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux to get things rolling. The athletic quarterback used both his arm and legs to push his team down the field, and BC’s passing attack found a steady rhythm that would continue throughout the game.

Receiver Bryan Burnham made an acrobatic 12-yard catch on the drive, and Jennings hit receiver Shaq Johnson on the very next play for a 35-yard touchdown. Johnson used his speed to gain separation and get open on the right side of the field, and kicker Ty Long knocked through the extra point to tie the game at seven apiece.

BC Lions QB Jonathan Jennings Photo: Jimmy Jeong CFL.ca

Montreal’s offence looked strong again on their second drive, with Willy hooking up with receiver Ernest Jackson for a big 54-yard strike. But Odell Willis’ first sack as a Lion stifled the Als’ drive, and they would settle for a 30-yard field goal to grab the 10-7 lead. Willy completed 10 of 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

Jennings continued to make plays in multiple ways after the Lions got the ball back, as the quarterback found space in the Als’ defensive front for a 21-yard run to bring the Lions into Montreal territory. The Als’ defence managed to bounce back on the drive and hold strong, but Long punted the ball for a single to bring BC within two points.

Running back Jeremiah Johnson began to get the Lions’ running game going in the second quarter, and Long would boot another punt for a single to bring the score to 10-9. Johnson finished with 52 yards rushing on 10 carries.

It was defence that stole the show in the third quarter, with both team’s defensive lines clogging up running lanes and applying pressure to prevent any opportunities for big plays. The lone score of the quarter was a 27-yard BC field goal from Long, giving the Lions a narrow 11-10 lead.

BC began to build momentum again on offence near the end of the third quarter, with Jennings completing seven-straight passes. Long would knock through a 30-yard field to extend the Lions’ lead to 15-10 early in the fourth.

The first turnover of the game came when Willy was picked off by Lions defensive back Garry Peters while trying to complete a short pass over the middle to Eugene Lewis. The interception was the first of Peters’ CFL career.

Jennings continued his big performance after getting the ball back, calling his own number for a 16-yard scamper. The Lions’ offence capitalized on the Peters interception when Jennings connected with receiver Cory Watson for an 11-yard touchdown strike, giving BC a 22-10 lead that would seal the Week 1 victory.

The Alouettes will look to bounce back when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Friday, while the BC Lions will be off until travel to face the Edmonton Eskimos in Week 3.

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