Rhymes, Adams Jr. lead BC Lions to opening night win over Calgary Stampeders

CALGARY — The BC Lions started their season with a victory, defeating the Calgary Stampeders on Thursday night at McMahon Stadium.

Vernon Adams Jr. had a big performance in the first game of the 2023 campaign, as did his favourite receiver in the contest, Dominique Rhymes.

Adams Jr. threw two touchdown passes to Rhymes in the 25-15 victory and also scored one himself on the ground. The Lions pivot finished the game completing 27 of his 35 passes for 270 yards and an interception.

To go along with the two majors, Rhymes hauled in 100 yards on eight catches, leading all pass-catchers in the game. Alexander Hollins caught all six passes thrown his way for 85 yards. Running back Taquan Mizzell rushed for 81 yards on 12 carries.

In the losing effort, Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier threw a touchdown and an interception, completing 19 of 35 passes for 160 yards. Receiver Tre Odoms-Dukes hauled in the lone Calgary touchdown, catching seven passes for 75 yards, while kicker Rene Paredes was good on three of his five field goal attempts in the contest.

Linebacker Cameron Judge had an interception to go along with four tackles for the Stamps while fellow linebacker Micah Awe led all defenders with 12 tackles.

» Box Score: Lions, Stamps by the numbers
» Gallery: Lions at Stamps images
» Depth Charts: BC | CGY

Lions WR Dominique Rhymes celebrating TD catch Photo: Dave Chidley

The Stampeders started the game with the ball as Jake Maier tossed the first few throws of the 2023 campaign. Calgary’s first drive included two scampers from Ka’Deem Carey, one of seven yards and the other for a 19-yard gain, and ended with a 39-yard Rene Paredes field goal attempt that was wide left.

Vernon Adams Jr. and the Lions took the field and they wasted no time starting their drive with back-to-back first downs, a 14-yard catch by Dominique Rhymes followed by a 12-yard run by Lucky Whitehead. Adams Jr. continued to move the chains on the possession, as the pivot completed all of his passes to move his team down to the Calgary 13-yard line.

After a four-yard gain by Alexander Hollins, Adams Jr. completed his ninth pass of the drive and this time it was in the end zone for the first major of the contest. Rhymes hauled in the nine-yard score and with the completed convert, the Lions were up 7-0 with just under six minutes left in the first quarter.

The defenses then traded two-and-outs as they started to get a feel for each other in the first frame.

Adams Jr. and the Leos began to get back into a rhythm as the time started to tick down in the opening 15 minutes, starting the drive with back-to-back runs from new lead running back Taquan Mizzell, starting with a 14-yard gain and following that up with a 10-yard run. The drive continued and after after a 23-yard pass to Hollins to bring the Lions into Stampeders territory, Adams Jr. once again found Rhymes in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown score. Whyte missed his convert and BC increased their lead to 13-0 just a minute into the second frame.

Maier and co. looked to respond on their next opportunity. They made some progress down the field, with a Ka’Deem Carey three-yard run, a big play to Tre Odoms-Dukes for 21 yards, and a five-yard gain by Reggie Begelton, but the Lions defence held strong and the Stamps were forced to bring out their field goal unit. Paredes missed his second attempt of the contest, this one from 45 yards out, and the Lions held their 13-0 lead.

When Adams Jr. and the Leos hit the field for their next possession, linebacker Cameron Judge jumped in front of a receiver, hauled in an interception and returned it 35 yards down to the Lions’ 14-yard line. That brought Maier and co. right back onto the field and in scoring position.

As the Stamps were setting up to try for their third field goal of the game, since they were unable to find the end zone, Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson challenged that there was roughing the passer penalty on Lions defensive lineman Mathieu Betts. The challenge was not successful and Paredes attempted a 22-yard field goal. He split the uprights for three points and cut the Lions lead 13-3.

There would be no more scoring in the first 30 minutes as both teams headed to their respective locker rooms at the half.

Both teams’ defenses held strong to start the second half, with both teams trading punts midway through the third frame. Flintoff’s punt sailed through the end zone for a single point, increasing the Lions lead to 14-3 with just under seven minutes remaining in the third.

T.J. Lee had intercepted Maier on the Stamps’ next offensive drive, but he lateralled the ball to Garry Peters who wasn’t able to hang on to the pass and fumbled. Calgary last touched the ball before it went out of bounds, negating the turnover and giving possession back to the Stampeders.

The Stamps weren’t able to find the end zone on the ensuing possession and Paredes returned to the field for the fourth time of the contest. His 39-yard field goal attempt was good, cutting BC’s lead to 14-6 with two and a half minutes until the end of the quarter.

BC hit the field on their next possession on their own side of midfield and moved the chains into scoring position in Calgary territory. Adams Jr. called his own number on the five-yard line and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. The 10-play, 70-yard drive along with the completed convert increased the Leos lead to 21-6 with just under 12 minutes left in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Flintoff booted the ball and Stampeders receiver Clark Barnes, who was back to return the kick, had to take a knee in the end zone for the single and BC’s lead increased to 22-6.

Maier and the Stampeders responded with their first touchdown of the contest as the Calgary pivot found Odoms-Dukes in the end zone for the five-yard score. Calgary went for two but it went in and out of Odoms-Dukes hands on the goal line. With the score that capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive, the Stampeders cut the Lions lead to 22-12 with six minutes remaining on the clock.

After a BC two-and-out, Paredes connected on his 52-yard field goal attempt, cutting the Lions’ lead to 22-15 with under three minutes left in the game.

On the Lions next drive, they moved down the field and into field goal range. Whyte hit his 45-yard attempt, increasing the Leos lead to 25-15 with 20 seconds left on the clock. That would be the final scoring play of the game as the Lions improved to 1-0 to start the year.

Next up for the Stampeders is a trip to Ottawa to take on the REDBLACKS on Thursday while the Lions matchup against the Edmonton Elks at BC Place on Saturday.

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