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‘Roller-coaster’: B.C. Lions win home opener against Calgary 26-17

Click to play video: 'More than 51,000 people expected for B.C. Lions home opener, 50 Cent concert'
More than 51,000 people expected for B.C. Lions home opener, 50 Cent concert
The B.C. Lions are expecting more than 51,000 attendees for the home opener at BC Place, which includes a 50 Cent concert, on Saturday. Travis Prasad was live at the home opener Saturday evening – Jun 15, 2024

The B.C. Lions exhaled on Saturday.

Expectations for the team were high coming into the CFL season and last week’s loss to the Toronto Argonauts took many onlookers by surprise.

Beating the Calgary Stampeders 26-17 in their home opener Saturday gave the Lions some relief.

“I feel like we got the monkey off our back,” said linebacker Josh Woods. “Last week it didn’t feel like it was us. It was good to get a win and give guys confidence, new guys confidence. … We feel like us again.”

Vernon Adams Jr. threw for 277 yards, connecting on 17 of 29 attempts, including two touchdowns, and drove in another major for B.C. (1-1).

“We had to adjust and we did. I still want to be more consistent. It was a real roller-coaster type of game,” Adams said.

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“But a hard-fought win, man. Can’t take anything from these guys. I love the way we battled and finished that game.”

Calgary’s Jake Maier went 26 for 33 with 339 passing yards, two TDs and one interception as the Stampeders (1-1) took their first loss of the campaign. B.C. sacked the quarterback four times.

“I’m not concerned right now because I like our team. And I understand that no team right now should be playing their best football in Week 2,” said Calgary’s head coach Dave Dickenson. “They fought hard. We’ve got good talent, we have playmakers, we played a good football team.”

Maier, who was named the league’s top offensive player for his performance against Hamilton last week, continued his solid play early in Saturday’s game.

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The quarterback sailed a 25-yard pass to Marken Michel midway through the first quarter, then followed up by sending the receiver a 10-yard toss just steps from the goal line. Michel waltzed in to complete the touchdown and Rene Parades hit the convert, giving Calgary a 7-0 lead at the end of the first.

Early in the second frame, Adams scrambled out of the pocket and lobbed an eight-yard toss to Justin McInnis in the end zone. Sean Whyte’s kick was blocked, leaving the Lions trailing 7-6.

Maier sent a pass to Dedrick Mills minutes later, but the ball went off his fingers and B.C. linebacker Ben Hladik dove to scoop it up for an interception.

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Hladik was a force for the Lions on Saturday, registering 10 tackles and an interception.

“Ben is one of the most underrated dudes in this league. He’s one of the smartest linebackers,” Woods said. “We’re a duo. It’s just fun to play with him. That’s my brother.”

The Stamps turned to Parades midway through the second quarter and the kicker booted a 13-yard field goal.

Adams responded by sailing a 28-yard pass to McInnis, then followed up with a giant lob to Hollins deep in the end zone. This time, Whyte made the convert and the Lions took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

The Stampeders’ offence got back to work early in the second half when Maier connected with a wide open Mills on a long bomb. The receiver took off down the field before Hladik took him out by the ankles. Maier completed the drive with a toss to Reggie Begelton deep in the end zone, restoring Calgary’s advantage.

The Lions levelled the score at 17-17 midway through the third with a 30-yard field goal.

B.C. went up once again early in the fourth after Adams pitched a rainbow pass to Ayden Eberhardt for a 59-yard gain that set the Lions up in the red zone. The quarterback then muscled the ball over the goal line for another major. Whyte’s convert attempt was blocked once again, leaving B.C. up 23-17.

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The kicker went for a 53-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the game, and sent the ball through the uprights to give the Lions a 26-17 victory.

“I think we’ve got room to grow,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said of his team’s performance. “It’s obviously a lot more fun to grow when you win a game than when you lose. So, really proud of them. It was a tough game.”

Football wasn’t the only show at B.C. Place on Saturday — rapper 50 Cent performed before kickoff, singing hits such as “In da Club” and “Candy Shop” for the announced crowd of 53,788.

Dickenson admitted that he didn’t check out the performance, but said the crowd is good for Canadian football.

“I love that there were people here who maybe aren’t checking out a CFL game consistently. I’m in the business of selling our game and I thought you saw a lot of good football,” he said. “I thought it was a very entertaining game, we just came out on the short end.”

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