EDMONTON — The Lions have secured a spot in the CFL's post-season.
Taquan Mizzell ran in a pair of touchdowns as the B.C. Lions clinched a playoff spot with a 37-29 victory over the Edmonton Elks on Friday.
“It’s a big deal. Just ask teams that aren’t in the playoffs if making it in is a big deal,” said Lions head coach Rick Campbell. “To get to 10 wins and to secure a playoff berth, which is your first goal in the regular season, it is going to make our last four games pretty interesting.”
Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns to help B.C. (10-4) win three games in a row.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done,” Adams said. “I know I have to be better for my team moving forward. We started off hot, but then I was kind of up and down.
"I just want to be better for the team, but it was a great win. Our team, we got fight in us.”
Canadian QB Tre Ford had two TD passes on 182 yards as Edmonton (4-11) saw its faint playoff hopes almost disappear.
“They did a good job game-planning, they were prepared for me. I couldn't get out of the pocket and scramble much. They just did a good job containing me,” Ford said. “Even though I still thought we didn't execute to the level we wanted to, it was definitely a step forward."
The Elks at least managed to score a point against the Lions after stunningly being shutout out in both of their previous meetings against B.C. this season.
"The last two times we played them, we didn't score any points and looking back last year, they blew us out a whole bunch," said Ford. "So, definitely a step in the right direction."
The Lions came roaring out of the gate with a surgical opening drive, needing just seven consecutive successful plays to set up a five-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Justin McInnis.
Things didn’t go nearly as well on their next possession, however, as Adams floated a ball too high and it was picked off and returned 56 yards by Kai Gray for the pick six TD, ending Edmonton’s season-long scoring drought against the Lions.
B.C. made up for it immediately, though, as Adams found Jevon Cottoy, who shrugged off a badly-missed tackle attempt by Mark McLaurin and scampered 57 yards into the end zone.
The big plays kept coming on B.C.’s next possession as well, as a 68-yard punt return by Terry Williams set up a 13-yard TD run by Mizzell to give the Lions a 21-7 lead after the first quarter.
“We got outplayed in all three phases,” said Elks head coach Chris Jones. “I thought, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game they beat us in this game. We're closer than maybe what we were, but you don't get consolation prizes for losing the football game.”
The Elks finally got their listless offence going late in the second quarter when Ford hit Dillon Mitchell in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown, the first offensive points recorded by Edmonton in 148:34 of game play against B.C. this season.
The Lions came flying right back as a 57-yard passing play to Keon Hatcher set up a 12-yard field goal by Sean Whyte.
Dean Faithfull kicked a 41-yard field goal for the Elks with no time left on the clock to make it 24-17 at the mid-mark.
Faithfull started off the third quarter with a missed 41-yard attempt that resulted in a single, but then nailed a 42-yarder with five minutes to play in the frame.
The Lions regained a bit of their cushion when Mizzell found a seam and turned on the jets for a 48-yard touchdown run.
Whyte kicked a 17-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Edmonton kept it interesting as Ford found Mitchell for a four-yard touchdown pass with just under three minutes left in the game to pull within six points.
Whyte booted a 40-yard field goal with 36 seconds left to put the game away for the Lions.
Of the nine CFL teams who have started seasons at 0-9 since 1958, only Edmonton this season and Ottawa in 1989 have managed to come back and record four wins… The game featured the two teams with the worst turnover deficits, with the Lions coming into the game at minus-eight and the Elks sitting at minus-12.
The Lions play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders next Friday. The Elks are on a bye week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press