CFL: Ottawa REDBLACKS hold off late charging BC Lions for key win

OTTAWA — The Ottawa REDBLACKS narrowly held off a fourth quarter comeback attempt by the BC Lions for a 31-24 victory at TD Place in game one of a Saturday CFL doubleheader.

The REDBLACKS appeared to be in control with a 31-3 lead heading into the final 15 minutes, but the Lions battled back to score three touchdowns in the final quarter in what would have been the greatest comeback in league history. A pass by Travis Lulay was picked off with less than two minutes to go and the REDBLACKS controlled the clock from there for the win.

Running back Mossis Madu had a touchdown on the ground and in the air for Ottawa in the win while Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings was pulled in the loss.

The REDBLACKS had a short field to work with on their second possession of the game, beginning their drive at their own 53-yard line. Ottawa was not able to take full advantage of the field position, settling for a 41-yard field goal from Brett Maher.

Ottawa punted the ball away on its next drive, but a too many men call against the Lions gave the REDBLACKS another third down attempt and put them within striking distance of a field goal. Maher split the uprights from 48-yards out to pull Ottawa ahead 6-0.

Ottawa Redblacks’ quarterback Trevor Harris (7) throws the ball as B.C. Lions’ Mic’hael Brooks (90) rushes forward during the first half of a CFL football game in Ottawa on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The kick was Maher’s eighth straight successful field goal attempt, setting an Ottawa pro-football record.

The Manny Show was on full display near the end of the first quarter when Emmanuel Arceneaux hauled in a 52-yard catch to put the Lions just outside of the red zone. However, BC could not capitalize on the big play as a Jennings pass in the end zone was picked off by Ottawa defensive back Corey Tindal.

The REDBLACKS held the Lions to just two first downs in the first 15 minutes of the match.

Ottawa continued to pull away in the second quarter as Harris and his offence controlled the clock with a steady charge down the field. A gamble on third down in the red zone paid off, setting Ottawa up just one-yard short of a touchdown. Ryan Lindley charged across the plane for the major, increasing the REDBLACKS’ lead.

Another field goal by Maher puller the REDBLACKS ahead 15-0 late in the second quarter.

The Lions attempted a 45-yard field goal with less than a minute left in the game, but Ty Long’s kick sailed wide left. Diontae Spencer charged out of the end zone, running the ball 90 yards downfield. His long return set up Maher’s fourth field goal of the day to carry an 18-0 REDBLACKS lead heading into halftime.

In need of an offensive spark, the Leos decided put backup pivot Travis Lulay at the helm to start the third quarter.

A pass interference call against BC proved costly for the Lions, moving the REDBLACKS 44 yards downfield. Madu capped off the drive by taking a pitch from Harris and making the eight-yard dash into the end zone for the major.

The Lions finally managed to get on the board midway through the third quarter thanks to their strong ground game. It started with Chris Rainey’s 49-yard punt return, followed by an 18-yard rush by Jeremiah Johnson. Lulay also got in on the action, running the ball on three straight plays. The REDBLACKS’ defence held strong, standing up the Lions twice within the ten-yard line. BC settled for a short field goal to narrowly cut into the REDBLACKS lead.

Madu continued to work his third quarter magic, notching his second touchdown of the quarter by snagging a pass from Harris in the end zone. The REDBLACKS third touchdown of the game gave them a commanding 31-3 lead heading into the final 15 minutes.

Ottawa Redblacks’ Brad Sinopoloi (88) tries to make his way past B.C. Lions’ Tony Burnett (26) and Chandler Fenner (39) during the first half of a CFL football game in Ottawa on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Despite the large deficit, the Lions refused to go down without a fight. Bryan Burnham made a spectacular 42-yard catch to set up BC’s first touchdown of the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Running back Jeremiah Johnson capped off the drive with a four-yard dash into the end zone for the major, putting the score at 31-10.

The Lions weren’t done there.

A REDBLACKS two-and-out gave BC control of the ball once again. Lulay and the Lions offence moved the sticks and continued to crawl their way back into the game. Johnson recorded his second touchdown of the afternoon, catching a three-yard toss from Lulay to cut the REDBLACKS lead to 31-17.

The Lions battled back to make it a one-score game when Ronnie Yell intercepted a Harris pass deep in Ottawa territory, setting up the Lions for first and goal. Burnham caught a Lulay pass in the short left corner of the end zone to make it a 31-24 score late in the fourth quarter.

BC got the ball back once again with less than two minutes remaining, but could not pull off the miraculous comeback. Jonathan Newsome caught a bouncing ball for a REDBLACKS interception with just over a minute remaining as Ottawa held on for the win.

Up next for the REDBLACKS is a date with the Montreal Alouettes in an all-East matchup, while the Lions are on a bye week. They will return to action Sept. 8 to take on the Als at BC Place.

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