Late-game heroics lead BC Lions past Calgary Stampeders in preseason finale

VANCOUVER — With all eyes on Mike Reilly, it was a different BC Lions quarterback stealing the show on Friday night in Vancouver.

Grant Kraemer, the third quarterback in the game for BC, led two late scoring drives to provide the Lions a 38-36 come-from-behind win over the Calgary Stampeders in the last game of the pre-season.

Kraemer’s three-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Moore in the last minute of the game stood as the winner, helping DeVone Claybrooks pick up his first unofficial victory as a head coach.

Nick Arbuckle threw two touchdown passes for the Stamps while Bo Levi Mitchell added another, as the Stamps burst out of the gate with a 30-point first half.

Reilly made his pre-season debut with BC, putting up strong numbers in just a quarter’s work, while Mitchell also moved the ball consistently as neither offence showed any sign of rust. Mitchell finished with 84 yards and a touchdown on 4-of-6 passing, while Reilly completed eight of 11 passes for 110 yards, adding a one-yard rushing touchdown.

Friday’s matchup at BC Place marked Reilly’s first game with the club since signing a four-year deal in free agency back in February. But it was the high-flying Stamps offence putting on a show early, with Juwan BrescacinAaron Peck and 2019 draft pick Hergy Mayala all catching first-half touchdown passes.

Arbuckle, coming off an impressive outing in the opener last week, completed six of seven passing for 87 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception.

Austin Apodaca played extensively for the Lions in his bid to win a backup job, but didn’t have the best outing. The former Blue Bomber completed 11 of 21 passes for 115 yards with, throwing one interception and also fumbling.

Kraemer finished with 145 passing yards and two combined touchdowns on 6-of-8 passing.

Lions quarterback Ricky Lloyd didn’t play.

The two sides will prepare for their Week 1 matchups before going head to head in Week 3 at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium.

The Lions opened the game with a two-and-out in Reilly’s first series behind centre, but it was not indicative of things to come.

The Stamps started their first drive at midfield but couldn’t make anything of it, as Mitchell’s pass attempt on second-and-10 couldn’t connect with Brescacin. However, kicker Rene Paredes‘s 46-yard field goal put the visitors ahead 3-0 in the game’s opening minutes.

Reilly settled in on his second possession, starting with an 11-yard completion to Jevon Cottoy to get the drive moving. Free agent signing Duron Carter caught his first pass of the pre-season for a 15-yard gain, eventually setting up a two-yard touchdown run by White to get the Lions on the board.

Both offences were in mid-season form early in this one, as the Stampeders mounted a quick response. Brescacin’s first catch of the game moved the chains on second down, and two plays later the pair reconnected for a 53-yard touchdown, staking the Stamps to a 9-7 lead.

A roughing the passer penalty would negate a Calgary sack on the ensuing drive, and Reilly and the Lions took advantage. The Lions’ big off-season addition connected on five straight attempts, including three to veteran receiver Bryan Burnham, setting up a one-yard sneak to put the Lions back in front.

With the first quarter expired and Mitchell out of the game, the Stamps’ offence didn’t miss a beat with Arbuckle behind centre. The young backup picked up where he left off earlier in the pre-season, striking deep on a 45-yard completion to Michael Klukas down to the Lions’ 28-yard-line.

Two completions later, Aaron Peck was on his way into the end zone, marking a three-for-three drive for Arbuckle and putting Calgary back in front at BC Place.

Both starting quarterbacks hit the showers after the first 15 minutes, with Apodaca next in line for the Lions. His bid for the backup job to Reilly didn’t start well however, when his pass was intercepted by Marko Myers and returned 64 yards for a Calgary touchdown the other way. With two quick scores, the Stampeders suddenly had a 23-13 lead halfway through the second quarter.

The Lions pulled to within a touchdown after a short field goal from Sergio Castillo, but it was short-lived, as the hot hand of Arbuckle, with the help of running back Kadeem Carey, led the offence back into the end zone on a touchdown pass to the young Canadian in Mayala.

A 39-yard field goal by Lions kicker Anthony Alix cut the deficit to 30-19 in the third quarter, but the Stamps’ defence answered, getting to Apodaca and forcing a fumble deep in the Lions’ own end. It was eventually recovered by BC, but the result was a safety, extending the Stamps’ lead to 32-19.

After an uneventful third quarter, the Lions made a push in the fourth, taking advantage of a short field and finishing off a four-play drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Moore, cutting the deficit to 33-25.

Mexican kicker Oscar Hugo Silva added a fourth quarter field goal to restore the Stamps’ lead to 11, though Silva would later miss on his second attempt.

The miss would be costly, as the Lions got the ball back in the game’s dying minutes and completed the comeback. Kraemer’s second touchdown of the quarter — a three-yard pass to Moore — gave the Leos a late lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.

With the Lions’ comeback win, both teams finish their pre-season with a 1-1 record. The two clubs are in action in their respective season-openers on Saturday, June 15 in Week 1 of the CFL season as part of a double-header.

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