Andrew Harris scored two touchdowns, one a spectacular 63-yard play, as the B.C. Lions celebrated their return to BC Place Stadium with a 33-24 victory Friday over the Edmonton Eskimos.
Harris, a shifty Canadian running back in his second full season with B.C., was the safety valve for Lions quarterback Travis Lulay much of the night.
He scored his second touchdown on a great individual effort in the third quarter when a scrambling Lulay tossed him a short pass. Harris caught the ball in the backfield and bounced off two Edmonton tacklers before running past the rest of the Eskimos defence to the end zone.
Lulay also threw a 22-yard strike to Harris and a three-yard touchdown toss to slotback Geroy Simon. Lulay also scored on a four-yard run as the Lions won their sixth consecutive game to improve their record to 7-6.
B.C. moves into a three-way tie for first place in the CFL’s West Division. The Lions have 14 points, along with Calgary (7-5) and Edmonton (7-6).
Lions placekicker Paul McCallum connected on a 23-yard field goal. That extended his streak to 27 consecutive field goals, leaving him one short of the record of 28 set by Dave Ridgway of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1993.
Simon also went over 1,000 yards receiving for the ninth consecutive season.
Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jason Barnes. Backup Kerry Joseph scored on a one-yard run. The Eskimos started the season 5-0 but are 2-6 in their last eight games.
Eskimos running back Jerome Messam had 12 carries for 70 yards but was thrown out of the game in the fourth quarter after throwing a punch during an altercation with several Lions after a successful two-point conversion.
Damon Duval was good on field goals of 20 and 33 yards. Both teams conceded safeties.
The game started about 30 minutes late for broadcast reasons because of the length of the Winnipeg-Montreal contest earlier Friday.
That didn’t dampened the enthusiasm of a crowd of 50,213, which watched the first CFL game at the newly renovated stadium.
As late as Friday afternoon, crews were putting the final touches on the $560-million facelift.
The new, retractable roof opened prior to kickoff, bringing a cheer from the crowd. The massive, centre-hung video screen showed replays in crisp HD. The players seemed pleased with the building’s increased lighting and modern turf.
The fans were happy with the new wider seats – most with cupholders – and the enhanced concessions.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark participated in the ribbon-cutting and Sarah McLachlan, the Juno- and Grammy-award-winning performer, sang the national anthem.
The Eskimos led 13-12 at half-time after the Lions squandered a couple of early scoring chances.
On B.C.’s first possession, Lulay marched his team down the field but had a pass intercepted in the end zone by Weldon Brown.
The Eskimos couldn’t move the ball and were forced to kick. Lions’ linebacker Adam Bighill blocked Duval’s punt and Jamall Lee recovered on the Edmonton two-yard line.
With their backs to the wall, the Eskimos defence stiffened, stopping three Lion run attempts, the last from the one-yard line.
Joseph replaced Ray for a series in the second quarter. Joseph and Messam took turns running the ball as Edmonton mounted an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
B.C. answered by Lulay directing an eight-play, 80-yard drive ending with Harris’ first touchdown catch.
BC Place will seat 54,500 for football games. That’s a reduction from the over 59,000 in the old building.
The stadium was first opened in 1983 and cost $126-million.