The B.C. Lions have put some concerns about their quarterbacking situation to rest, at least for a little while, as the CFL playoffs loom.
And their running game is looking pretty good, too.
Nominal No. 1 signal-caller Travis Lulay scored a touchdown and completed three-of-four passes in limited duty upon his return from a shoulder injury as the Lions beat the Calgary Stampeders 26-7 in the final game of the regular season for both teams Friday night.
“It was just exciting to be back on the field with the guys, just to get in and call some plays,” said Lulay, who missed six games.
Quarterbacking has been a concern because of Lulay’s health, Buck Pierce’s history of injuries and second-year pro Thomas DeMarco’s inexperience. But all three impressed at times as the Lions sent a message that they will not go down lightly if the clubs meet in the West Final for the second year in a row.
Meanwhile, Andrew Harris rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown as the Lions posted their second straight win heading into a semifinal game in Saskatchewan.
“We just have ultimate confidence right now, and it’s perfect timing, because we have a (potentially) long stretch here on the road in the playoffs,” said Harris. “Where we are right now, these two wins were absolutely crucial for us. I just think if we keep building off this we’ll be all right in the playoffs.”
The Lions (11-7) had already secured third place, while the Stampeders (14-4) were already assured of first place and an opening-round playoff bye in the West Division. The clubs approached the game like an exhibition contest, with each deploying three quarterbacks and resting several other players.
Harris excelled as he cracked the 100-yard barrier for the first time since July 30 against Toronto and was held under 20 yards on three occasions.
“Oh, man, if I’d have known that, I would have been yelling at (the coaches) to be running the ball,” said Harris. “But it’s just one of those things. It’s been a disappointing season and to not get 1,000 is a disappointing thing as well. But at the end of the day, we’re in the playoffs a and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Paul McCallum provided the rest of B.C.’s points in the form of four field goals from 46, 44, 17 and 23 yards and two converts to account for the rest of B.C.’s scoring.
Calgary’s Rene Paredes booted field goals of 46 and 21 yards while the Stampeders’ other point came on a punt single.
“We didn’t play good enough to win,” said Calgary linebacker Juwan Simpson. “We take all the blame. We allowed them to score. We know we have to play better. We had a few injuries, but that’s no excuse. We should have played better as a team.”
The Stampeders suffered a blow when they lost running back Jon Cornish, who entered the game as the CFL’s rushing leader, with an apparent shoulder injury. Cornish recorded only four carries for 14 yards before leaving the game.
The Lions got off to a rough start as Pierce threw a pass way beyond intended receiver Courtney Taylor and was intercepted by Deron Mayo. But on B.C.’s next drive, he moved his club to the Calgary one-yard line and DeMarco came in and handed off to Harris for a touchdown off a third-and-one gamble.
The Stampeders picked up a point on Maver’s 60-yard punt single on the final play of the first quarter to close the gap to 7-4.
But McCallum’s 47-yard field goal at 6:23 of the second quarter put the Lions ahead 10-4, setting the stage for Lulay’s short, but victory-clinching effort entry a little while later.
Harris chalked up 51 yards on four plays that included three runs and just one seven-yard pass reception. But Lulay then connected with Nick Moore on a 36-yard pass that put the ball at the B.C. one-yard line. The QB then ran for a one-yard touchdown to culminate an 11-play, 87 yard scoring drive that with McCallum’s convert gave the Lions a 17-4 lead that stood up until halftime and effectively erased any further doubt about the outcome.
“We were able to execute that one drive really well,” said Lulay, who passed for a total of 54 yards. “We were second-and-long but the run game kept the drive alive. It was just a well executive drive and we finished it off, so it was good to be in and be a part of that.”
Pierce completed four-of-nine passes for 41 yards while Lulay was good on three of four, accumulating 54 yards, before they were both pulled.
“It was good to get the start in,” said Pierce, who made his first start since July while he was still with Winnipeg. “I threw an early turnover, but we wanted to take some shots early.”
DeMarco completed 9-of-12 passes for 96 yards, including a 45-yard strike to Emmanuel Arceneaux in the fourth quarter. The second-year Lions QB, who had struggled in recent weeks, generated three field goals and was unlucky not to get his team in the end zone after Harris was tackled for a loss that forced the Lions to settle for a 17-yard field goal.
“I think it’s a good (quarterbacking) situation right now, and I think the whole offence and the whole team is confident in our play over the last two weeks,” said Pierce, who led the Lions to a win over Saskatchewan seven days earlier.
Glenn finished with five completions on eight pass attempts before getting the rest of the night off. Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell also saw action at quarterback for Calgary but generated little as the Stamps generated only 165 yards in net offence to B.C.’s 365.
Notes: As a result of Pierce’s start, CFL teams deployed 19 different starting quarterbacks this season, according to the league. He was viewed as a “double-counter” because he started for both Winnipeg and B.C. The actual number of quarterbacks to start a game was 18. He was the third Lions QB to receive a start. a Calgary also lost defensive tackle Demonte Bolden, receiver Marquay McDaniel and defensive tackle Micah Johnson to injuries in the first half. a B.C. nickleback Korey Banks sat out with a lower-body injury, while linebacker Anton McKenzie was sidelined with an undisclosed ailment that kept him out of practice all week.