Saskatchewan RB William Powell leads Roughriders past BC Lions

fVANCOUVER — William Powell broke free for his best game of the season to help lead the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 45-18 home victory over the BC Lions on Saturday night. The Riders improved their record to 3-3 in a tough West Division.

Powell finished the game 146 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, including a 42-yard rushing score on his longest run of the season. Powell also added a two-point conversion while averaging seven yards per carry.

Mike Reilly and the Lions’ offence could not get anything going for most of the game against a dominant defensive performance from Saskatchewan, and the veteran quarterback only managed to complete eight of 19 passes for 66 yards while facing heavy pressure for four quarters. The Riders’ defence forced numerous two-and-outs and racked up four sacks against Reilly while holding the Lions to just 110 combined rushing and passing yards.

Cody Fajardo started the game efficiently with accurate throws for the Riders, completing his first eight passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. The 27-year-old pivot completed 21 of 26 passes for 169 yards in the win while also adding 46 rushing yards on seven carries.

The Riders’ special teams continued to shine by scoring a return touchdown against the Lions for the second straight week. Loucheiz Purifoy returned a kick 87 yards to the end zone in the first quarter after the Lions’ conceded a safety, putting Saskatchewan up by double digits. Purifoy finished with 152 return yards.

BC grabbed some momentum just before half-time with a highlight-reel 118-yard return touchdown from Ryan Lankford on a missed field goal, and Lankford gave BC life again late in the third quarter with an equally impressive 89-yard kickoff return touchdown. Lankford finished the game with an incredible 277 return yards.

The Riders got on the board on their opening offensive drive with a 48-yard field goal from kicker Gabriel Ferraro after Fajardo put the team in range by completing all three of his pass attempts. Momentum continued to build for Saskatchewan after that when a booming 62-yard punt from Jon Ryan pinned the Lions’ offence deep and forced the team to concede a safety three plays later, making the score 5-0.

The ensuing kickoff set up a big special teams opportunity for the Riders’ return squad, and they certainly made the most of it. Purifoy caught the kick, broke contain on the right side of the field and found daylight for an 87-yard return touchdown. Ferraro added the convert kick to put the Riders up 12-0 with just under five minutes to go in the first quarter.

BC managed to cut the Riders’ lead down to nine points after the start of the second quarter when kicker Sergio Castillo made a 35-yard field goal. Reilly helped get the team in position for the field goal with a pair of first down gains on throws to receiver Bryan Burnham.

But Fajardo kept things rolling when Saskatchewan got the ball back. The Riders’ quarterback completed accurate strikes to receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Shaq Evans before finding Kyran Moore for a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Moore found space in the end zone behind defensive back T.J. Lee, and Fajardo did the rest by placing the pass perfectly in stride for the Riders receiver. Ferraro kicked the extra point to make it a 19-3 ball game with nine minutes to go in the opening half.

BC’s defence notched a turnover near the end of the half when a successful challenge from head coach DeVone Claybrooks revealed that defensive back Branden Dozier had knocked the ball out of Fajardo’s hands before the quarterback was down after a nine-yard rush. Linebacker Maleki Harris recovered the fumble for BC, but the Riders’ defence stood strong and forced a quick two-and-out.

Things didn’t stop there for the Riders in the first half, as Powell broke free for his longest rush of the season on a 42-yard touchdown run just after the three minute warning. Ferraro added the extra point to give Saskatchewan a 26-3 lead.

But the Lions grabbed some much-needed momentum before the half with a special teams touchdown of their own. A 42-yard field goal attempt from Ferraro went wide right and ended up in the waiting hands of Lankford, and the speedy athlete proceeded to take the ball the length of the field for an 118-yard return touchdown. Castillo kicked the convert to make the score 26-10 heading into half-time.

Saskatchewan added another point to its lead after the start of the third quarter on a 72-yard punt from Ryan that went through the Lions’ end zone for a single. Powell continued his strong performance later in the quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run, but the Lions responded with another explosive special teams play from Lankford.

Lankford turned on the jets once again and took the ensuing kickoff to the house for an 89-yard return touchdown. Reilly followed up the special teams touchdown by completing a two-point convert pass to Burnham that made the score 34-18.

Ferraro added a 19-yard field goal to extend the Riders’ lead midway through the fourth quarter, and Powell added his third touchdown of the game down the stretch to help seal the victory. Powell reached the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run after big catches from Moore and Cory Watson set up the score, and the Riders’ running back followed it up by adding the two-point conversion on the ground to give the Riders a 45-18 victory.

Week 8 will see the Saskatchewan Roughriders host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Thursday, while the BC Lions will have a week off before facing the Ticats in a road matchup on Saturday, August 10.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.