VANCOUVER – It took a while, and some trick plays, but Mike Reilly finally earned a win against his former CFL team Saturday.
Reilly completed three touchdown passes as the Edmonton Eskimos came back to beat the B.C. Lions 27-20 in the first game of the CFL season for both teams.
The last time the Eskimos won in Vancouver, on July 21, 2012, Reilly was still a Lions backup. The Lions suffered only their third loss at B.C. Place Stadium since it received a new retractable roof in 2011.
“It’s a fresh start, it’s a new season, and this is a tough place to win in,” said Reilly after beginning his second season with the Eskimos following a January 2013 trade from B.C. “Records aside, or who’s playing in the black and orange, they’ve made this place loud, and they’ve done well since they’ve come back from Empire (Field, the Lions temporary home during renovations).
“I know that first-hand. It’s something that we haven’t done in a long time, to win in Vancouver. That’s a good feeling.”
Reilly completed 22 of 35 passes for 229 yards as the Eskimos overcame an early 14-0 deficit. It was only his fifth win as Edmonton’s starter. He helped new coach Chris Jones earn a win in his first CFL game as a head coach after making defensive co-ordinator stints with three other clubs.
Calvin McCarty, Fred Stamps and Adarius Bowman caught Reilly’s touchdown passes. McCarty also enabled the Eskimos to complete a fake field goal in the third quarter, leading to the touchdown that put them ahead to stay. The Eskimos also pulled off a successful onside kick early in the fourth quarter that kept their offence on the field longer.
Grant Shaw provided their other points in the form of three converts and a pair of field goals.
“Everybody chipped in,” said Reilly. “Special teams got us a few extra possessions. Defence got the ball a lot, created a lot of turnovers, and offensively we were able to get some points. So (it was an) all-around team effort, but we know we’ve got to get better to reach our goal.”
The Eskimos are looking to become a championship contender by reversing a 4-14 season in 2013 that was their worst in 50 years. The Lions are looking to make amends for a first-round playoff loss to Saskatchewan.
Lions quarterback Kevin Glenn got off to a strong start in his regular-season debut, completing two touchdown passes in the first quarter. But Glenn, who is replacing injured starter Travis Lulay (shoulder), was undone by four interceptions.
“I didn’t play a good game,” said Glenn. “We turned the ball over, I turned the ball over, and that’s something we can’t do and expect to win.”
Glenn completed 10 of 13 passes in the first half, but finished a modest 18 for 28 passing for 251 yards. Andrew Harris and D-Tre Player scored touchdowns for B.C., while Paul McCallum added two field goals.
“We just didn’t keep the momentum going,” said Glenn. “We turned the ball over in the second half.”
The Lions’ first TD, a 55-yard pass-and-run play, came 1:58 into the game. Shortly after catching a pass near the Edmonton 40-yard line, Harris easily shook off rookie linebacker Dexter McCoil’s tackle attempt, eluded a couple of other Eskimos and ran the ball along the sidelines into the end zone. It was only Glenn’s third pass of the regular season.
Player, a rookie offensive lineman playing his first-ever CFL regular-season game, scored B.C.’s second touchdown while playing out of position late in the first quarter. After lining up as a tight end and being left wide open, he caught a two-yard pass from Glenn.
But thanks to Shaw’s two field goals in the second quarter, the Eskimos only trailed 17-14 at half-time. In the third quarter, Aaron Grymes intercepted Glenn’s pass intended for Shawn Gore deep in the end zone and then McCoil’s pick-off sparked the decisive drive that was aided by the successful fake field-goal. In crouch position, holder Matt Nichols, Edmonton’s backup quarterback, flipped a three-yard pass to McCarty, who helped the Eskimos convert a short-yardage situation.
The trickery led to Reilly’s 17-yard pass to a wide-open Stamps in the corner of the B.C. end zone that, combined with Shaw’s convert on the final play of the third quarter, gave the Eskimos their first lead of the game, 20-17, and put them ahead to stay with 15 minutes remaining.
McCarty, who grew up in nearby New Westminster, B.C., could not remember the last time he completed a fake field goal.
“I don’t think I’ve run one since I’ve been here,” said McCarty, who is in the eighth year with the Eskimos.
After Stamps’ touchdown, Pat Watkins recovered Edmonton’s onside kick. The Eskimos did not score on the ensuring offensive sequence. But on their next drive, Bowman hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Edmonton then ended B.C.’s victory hopes with back-to-back sacks by Almondo Sewell, which forced a punt, and an interception and forced fumble, both by Eric Samuels, that snuffed the hosts’ late comeback hopes.
“It’s a big win for us and a good way to start the season,” said McCarty.
Notes: A moment of silence was held before the game for the three RCMP officers slain in New Brunswick earlier this month. … Former B.C. centre Angus Reid, who retired after a back injury kept him out of the entire 2013 season, conducted the coin toss. … Lions DB Dante Marsh played his 170th CFL career regular-season game. He has spent his entire career with B.C. … The Lions have 19 new players, including 14 first-year CFLers and five veterans. … After Harris scored the game’s first touchdown, the public address announcer saluted former Vancouver Canuck Gino Odjick, who is suffering from a terminal disease that affects his heart. The crowd chanted “Gino! Gino!” in tribute.