Backup quarterback Mike Reilly threw for three touchdowns as the B.C. Lions thumped the Saskatchewan Roughriders 44-10 in CFL pre-season action Wednesday night.
Reilly, a 27-year-old Kennewick, Wash., native who is entering his third season with the Lions, completed 16 of 24 passes for 189 yards in two quarters of action. He also ran for 58 yards on seven carries.
A strong B.C. defence rendered four Saskatchewan quarterbacks mainly ineffective.
It was the first game of the pre-season for both clubs. The Lions were looking for a strong burst from the gate as part of a bid to avoid another 0-5 start that befell them before they completed a late-season surge and won the 2011 Grey Cup.
Both B.C.’s Mike Benevides and Saskatchewan’s Corey Chamblin worked the sidelines as head coaches in a CFL game for the first time. Benevides replaced Wally Buono, who relinquished his coaching duties in December following a 22-year tenure with the Lions and Calgary, to focus on his general manager duties. He has also received a vice-president title.
Chamblin joined the Roughriders from Hamilton, where he served as defensive co-ordinator last season. He took over from Ken Miller who retired following the 2011 campaign after replacing Greg Marshall in mid-season.
The Lions began the game with a strong drive as Lulay completed four of his first six passes while marching them on 10 plays for 56-yards that resulted in a 20-yard field goal by Paul McCallum.
McCallum added another three-pointer with less than two minutes left in the first quarter. The points were set up by a 30-yard punt return by rookie hopeful Anthony Stewart from near midfield to the Saskatchewan 20-yard line.
Saskatchewan was forced to punt after James Yurichuk, making his first start at middle linebacker for the Lions in place of former standout Solomon Elimimian, sacked Riders quarterback Darian Durant. Yurichuk, a 25-year-old Brampton, Ont., native who is entering his fourth season with the Lions, is making the switch to the middle from the weak-side spot.
Elimimian signed as a free agent with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings in the off-season.
Lulay completed seven of 11 passes for 72 yards in his lone quarter of work.
After taking over for the Lions No. 1 signal-caller, Reilly proceeded to guide the Lions on nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. He connected with Shawn Gore in the corner of the end zone for a nine-yard TD toss.
Saskatchewan got on the scoreboard about two minutes later as Chris Milo booted a 47-yard field goal that barely made it through the uprights, reducing his club’s deficit to 13-3.
Reilly impressed again in the final minute of the first half. With the Lions gambling on a third-and-10 situation from the Saskatchewan 28-yard line, he ran for 13 yards to keep the drive alive. On the next play, he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Nic Moore, staking the Lions to a 20-3 lead after 30 minutes.
With just over a minute gone in the third quarter, Adam Bighill, who is battling Yurichuk for the starting middle linebacker spot, intercepted a Levi Brown pass and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown.
Reilly and Moore connected for another TD with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. This time, Reilly threw 30 yards to Moore. The TD came one play after Reilly romped 20 yards to the Saskatchewan 30-yard line.
Reilly completed five of six passes on the 69-yard drive.
The Riders finally found the end zone with just under five minutes remaining in the game as Drew Willy, Saskatchewan’s fourth quarterback, tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Jason Cherry.
Rookie Thomas DeMarco, who replaced Reilly at the start of the fourth quarter, guided the Lions on their final two scoring drives of the night — in the final three minutes. First, DeMarco set up a 44-yard O’Neill field goal.
Then the Old Dominion product handed off to Andrew Harris for a three-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left in the game.
Notes: The Lions returned to their Kamloops, B.C., training camp base right after the game.