The B.C. Lions look ready to pick up right where they left off.
Quarterback Travis Lulay passed for three touchdowns in just over a half of playing time as the Lions concluded the CFL pre-season schedule with a 24-16 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Thursday night.
The Lions went a perfect 2-0 in exhibition action this season, coming off last year when they rebounded from a dismal start to the season to win 10 of 11 games and the Grey Cup.
Lulay said the familiarity of the championship lineup has given the Lions a running start in the pre-season.
“It’s the same unit that was playing down the crucial stretch of the season last year,” he said. “There is still work to be done, and we know that nothing is going to come easy, but the execution in training camp has been good.
“Our confidence level is high and our expectation level is high. We are playing fast football right now. We are just trying to pick up where we left off and progress and build from there. We have a chance to just continue to get better.”
The Eskimos were 0-2 in pre-season play and seem far from solving their problem of establishing a starting quarterback following the off-season trade of Ricky Ray.
“That’s to be determined,” Esks head coach Kavis Reed said. “We were very inefficient in this game. We didn’t execute the way we wanted to. We had some big penalties and that’s on the coach, that’s me. It’s not all on the quarterbacks. We wanted to evaluate all of them under fire in this game.”
It didn’t take the Lions long to get on the scoreboard, marching down field on their first possession and finished off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Lulay to Simon.
Edmonton responded with a Burke Dales punt single to make for a 7-1 game after the opening quarter.
Steven Jyles, expected to be Edmonton’s starting quarterback going into this season, only played the opening 20 minutes and was unable to get his team into scoring position.
Veteran Kerry Joseph came in to helm the Eskimos and got the team in field goal range but Derek Schiavone’s kick was blocked for another single. Paul McCallum came back with a punt single for the Lions.
Joseph engineered another solid drive late in the second quarter as Hugh Charles reeled in a 39-yard pass and then finished it off with a six-yard ramble into the end zone to put Edmonton up 9-8.
However, Lulay brought his team right back and made a massive 53-yard pass to Kierrie Johnson with just 36 seconds left in the half. The two-point convert attempt failed, making for a 14-9 Lions lead at the midmark.
The Lions struck quickly in the third quarter as well. After opening things off with a successful on-side kick, Lulay hit Arland Bruce for a 25-yard passing TD less than a minute into the second half. The convert was bobbled, making for a 20-9 B.C. lead as Mike Reilly came in to replace Lulay after the third quarter.
B.C. got that point back on a late third quarter punt single as Edmonton had no returner on the field and it bounced into the end zone.
The Lions padded their lead four minutes into the final quarter with a Hugh O’Neill field goal.
Possible third-stringer Matt Nichols played the third and fourth quarter for the Eskimos but couldn’t get much going. Edmonton was able to avoid being shutout in the second half on a big defensive play as Michael Ricks picked up a Keith Godding fumble and ran it back 78 yards with 24 seconds remaining in the contest.
Veteran Lions receiver Geroy Simon said he’s happy with how his team is heading into the regular season.
“We are on the right track. I don’t know if we are where we were at the end of last year but we can feel ourselves getting better every practice and every game,” he said.
“We’re building something great here. On offence we haven’t lost any starters from last year. When the few offensive linemen who are hurt get back we feel that we can take this to another level.”
The Lions will open the season at home next Friday in a Grey Cup rematch against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Edmonton kicks off the season next Saturday when they play host to Ricky Ray and the Toronto Argos.
Notes: The Lions were coming off a dominating first pre-season match where they blasted the Saskatchewan Roughriders 44-10. Edmonton lost its exhibition match 20-17 to Calgary. . . It was the Lions first visit to Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton since a 36-1 thrashing of the Eskimos last year. The big win launched the Leos on a run of seven straight wins and 10 out 11 games, including a West Division final over Edmonton and their own Grey Cup final that they hosted. . . Receivers Fred Stamps and Dobson Collins made their pre-season debuts for the Esks. Collins was released by B.C. last year. Another Edmonton receiver sat the game out as SB Adarius Bowman didn’t play because of a leg injury. . . In the Lions lineup was former Eskimos offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo, picked up by B.C. after the team suffered training camp injuries at the position. Kabongo, however, left the game with an injury in the third quarter.