CFL: Last minute TD propels Ottawa REDBLACKS past BC Lions

OTTAWA — It came down to the final minute, but the Ottawa REDBLACKS overcame adversity and inconsistency to earn a 29-25 victory over the BC Lions on Friday night at TD Place.

Trailing by three late, the REDBLACKS embarked on a game-winning drive which was kept alive by a critical one-handed catch by Greg Ellingson, emboldened by a 25-yard catch-and-run to William Powell, then finished by the running back’s decisive two-yard plunge with just 49 seconds remaining.

Trevor Harris completed 30 of 44 passes for 363 yards and a touchdown in the win for Ottawa, while slotback Brad Sinopoli hauled in a game-high 171 receiving yards on 11 catches.

Travis Lulay threw for 325 yards and a pair of touchdowns but took the loss for the Lions, whose defence — relatively steady throughout the night — could not come up with a stop when they needed one most.

Lulay and the BC offence set the tone early with a 35-yard completion to Emmanuel Arceneaux, but the drive petered out with a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Lions kicker Ty Long; Diontae Spencer returned the ball out of the Ottawa end zone, and the visitors were shut out on their opening drive.

The REDBLACKS then opened the scoring on their first possession, as Harris’s offence marched 76 yards before being held to an 11-yard Lewis Ward chip-shot field goal.

Then, after an Odell Willis objectionable conduct penalty and Harris-to-Brad Sinopoli connection on a key 2nd-and-22 kept the drive alive, a powerful 47-yard kick from Ward extended the REDBLACKS lead to 6-0.

Lulay and the Lions took their first lead of the evening in the second quarter, when the BC quarterback capped a 13-play drive with a perfect fade pass to the back of the end zone for Ricky Collins Jr.; Long’s convert made it 7-6.

BC found the end zone again late in the first half, when — after a Loucheiz Purifoy pass interference penalty extended the drive — Brandon Rutley leapt over the pile from one yard out for a touchdown. Long’s convert gave the visitors a 14-6 lead.

The REDBLACKS cut the lead to five on the second-to-last play of the half, as a 39-yard attempt from Ward split the uprights.

Ward then opened the second half in similar fashion, booting a 47-yard field goal to shave the Lions’ lead down to 14-12.

The visitors responded in a big way on the ensuing drive, as a 42-yard Lulay completion to Bryan Burnham set up a 26-yard touchdown bomb one play later to Arceneaux; Lulay then found Arceneaux at the back of the end zone for the two-point convert, and BC led 22-12.

Ottawa’s offence roared to life late in the third quarter, with Harris finding Brad Sinopoli in the end zone to cap an eight-play, 77-yard drive; Ward’s convert drew the REDBLACKS back within a field goal.

The hosts got what could have been a big momentum boost early in the fourth quarter, as Bryan Burnham fumbled after an initial highlight-reel catch and Ottawa recovered, but it was all for nought as Harris and co. two-and-outed.

BC committed another mental error on its following possession, as Long dropped the snap in a third-down punting situation; Ottawa stopped his impromptu dash for the first down, and took over possession on the BC 30-yard line.

The REDBLACKS managed just a single yard, however, and had to settle for a 36-yard Ward field goal to tie the game at 22.

DESPITE ITS STRUGGLES THROUGHOUT FRIDAY’S CONTEST, OTTAWA’S OFFENCE GOT THE JOB DONE WHEN IT COUNTED LATE. (CFL.CA PHOTO/PATRICK DOYLE)

After a series of ineffective drives on both sides of the ball, the Lions exploded inside the three-minute warning with a 78-yard Lulay-to-Arceneaux connection that set up an 18-yard field goal from Long to retake the lead.

Then, after an evening of inconsistency on offence, the REDBLACKS offence came to life when it mattered most: Greg Ellingson’s ridiculous one-handed grab kept the drive alive at the BC 35-yard line, William Powell’s 25-yard catch-and-run brought them down to the goal line, then Powell plunged in from the two-yard line.

Second-year pro Jordan Herdman, starting in place of injured Lions defensive captain Solomon Elimimian, registered a game-high 12 tackles in the defeat; Kevin Brown paced the REDBLACKS with seven.

Ottawa punter Richie Leone had himself a day, averaging 66 yards per punt and working his team out of sticky field-position situations repeatedly.

With the win, Ottawa improved to 3-2 on the season; Rick Campbell’s group now faces a tough trek to Tim Hortons Field for a date with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Saturday (4 p.m. ET).

Friday’s result — specifically the clutch game-winning drive — will assuage fears about the REDBLACKS offence’s capabilities, and maintain sole possession of first place in the East Division for the time being.

The loss dropped BC to 2-3, and Wally Buono’s squad will now have a bye week to reflect on the loss prior to a tough West Division trip to Calgary in Week 8 (Sat. Aug. 4, 9 p.m. ET).

With injuries beginning to pile up, the Lions will need their depth to step up and make plays: Divisional rivals Calgary and Edmonton loom in the not-so-distant future.

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