EDMONTON — The Eskimos scored 17-straight points and spoiled Mike Reilly’s return to Edmonton by beating the BC Lions 39-23 on Friday night. Quarterback Trevor Harris continued his hot start to the season by completing 25 of 33 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Green and Gold to a 2-0 record. Harris also rushed for another touchdown and at one point completed 14 straight passes.
Receiver Greg Ellingson shined bright for Edmonton with his first big performance as an Eskimo, racking up 174 receiving yards and two crucial touchdowns on nine catches.
Reilly started off strong by leading BC to a touchdown on the opening offensive drive, but the veteran passer faced relentless pressure for most of the game and ended the night with just 149 passing yards to go along with a touchdown, a two-point convert and an interception. The Esks’ defensive front seemed to get stronger as the game went on, forcing multiple two-and-outs while getting to Reilly for an incredible seven sacks.
C.J. Gable had another strong game on the ground and provided balance for Edmonton’s offence by carrying the ball 23 times for 111 tough yards.
Reilly was under fire early on as Edmonton’s defensive front applied pressure from all angles, but the veteran passer found a way to complete a 33-yard strike to receiver Bryan Burnham that put the Lions in the red zone on the opening drive of the game. Reilly capped off the 12-play, 83-yard drive with an accurate seven-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lemar Durant to grab the early lead for BC.
The Lions opted to go for two points after the score, and Reilly successfully completed the convert by scrambling to his right and finding receiver Shaq Johnson in the back corner of the end zone.
Harris and the Esks’ offence struggled to find an answer for the Lions’ defence in the opening quarter, and another quick defensive stop opened up the door for BC to add to its early lead. Reilly and company did not waste the opportunity, as a big 27-yard gallop from John White followed by a 38-yard catch from Johnson set up the first field goal attempt for the Leos.
Castillo knocked the 30-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Lions an early 11-0 lead.
The Esks managed to get on the board in the final minute of the opening quarter with a 45-yard field goal from Whyte. The kick was set up by a big 27-yard catch-and-run from Ellingson.
Defensive penalties hindered the Esks to start the second quarter, as a roughing the passer penalty helped put the Lions in position to add to their lead once again. But Edmonton’s defence held strong and forced the Lions to settle for a a 25-yard field goal from Castillo.
BC’s defence notched a turnover on the ensuing drive when defensive tackle Claudell Louis knocked the ball out of the arms of Gable to force the fumble. Davon Coleman quickly recovered the ball for BC, and the Leos converted the turnover into points on Castillo’s third field goal of the opening half, a 36-yard kick that made the score 17-3.
But the Green and Gold continued to keep things close by adding another field goal of their own soon after. Whyte came through again for the Esks with a 46-yard field goal to make it a 17-6 game after Harris helped put his team in position with key completions to receivers Tevaun Smith and Kenny Stafford.
Momentum began to fully shift as Harris started getting things going on offence in the final minutes of the first half, and Edmonton scored its first touchdown of the night when Harris found Smith for his first career CFL touchdown catch. The six-yard score was set up by two big catches from Ellingson, and Whyte kicked the extra point to bring the Esks within a touchdown.
Edmonton found itself in a position to grab its first lead of the game after defensive back Tyquwan Glass picked off Reilly to quickly give the ball back to the offence with under a minute left to go in the half.
Harris wasted zero time finding Ellingson for three more key connections, including a three-yard touchdown pass that put the Esks ahead. Whyte added the convert to make it 17-straight points for Edmonton, giving the team a 20-17 lead heading into half time.
BC battled back to tie the game up to start the second half, as Castillo showed off his impressive leg strength by making a 50-yard kick and fourth field goal of the game.
But Edmonton continued to keep things moving on offence and quickly climbed back on top after Harris led a scoring drive that was capped off by a one-yard quarterback sneak touchdown. Gable put together two solid runs to go along with big plays from Smith and Ricky Collins to put Harris in position to score the go-ahead rushing touchdown and make it a 27-20 game.
Castillo added a 45-yard field goal in the final minutes of the third quarter to keep BC within a touchdown score, but the Esks answered back and extended their lead on the final play of the third quarter with a 54-yard touchdown bomb from Harris to Ellingson. Whyte added the extra point to give Edmonton a 34-23 lead heading into the final frame.
The Lions were forced to concede a safety after relentless pressure from Eskimos left zero room for Reilly and the offence to operate, and Whyte would add another field goal for Edmonton near the end of the game to give the Green and Gold a 16-point advantage that sealed the victory.
Week 3 will see the unbeaten Edmonton Eskimos travel on the road to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday, June 27, while the BC Lions will look to secure their first victory of the season when they face the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, June 29.