VANCOUVER — Dome, sweet dome.
Starting a series of four dates at B.C. Place over their next five games, the B.C. Lions returned to their home turf in fine style on Saturday night with a 45-13 win over the Ottawa Redblacks.
It was their first win under the dome since Oct. 5, 2019, and moved the team over .500 for the first time since the 2018 season.
“We're three and two,” said quarterback Michael Reilly, who went 22 for 26 in the air for 319 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. “We'd love to be 5 and 0, but we’d hate to be 0 and 5.
“We're in a pretty good position, but there's still a lot of work to be done moving forward. I don't think there's any confusion about that in our locker room. But I like the trajectory that we're on, and I think that we’re the type of team that's going to continue to improve.”
Coming off a bye week after dealing with an elbow injury early in the season, Reilly looked razor sharp, particularly in the early going. In the first quarter, he completed a perfect 10-of-10 passes and drove 193 yards of total offence, helping his team build a 21-7 lead.
Keon Hatcher opened the scoring with an eight-yard catch for the Lions, just five plays and 2:43 into the game. Hatcher was appearing in his first career CFL game on his 27th birthday as he stepped in for injured receiver Dominique Rhymes.
“My thing is, if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready, and you know I was ready,” Hatcher said. “Just keep going out each and every practice and doing what we’re supposed to do, working on my craft and just bettering myself so when an opportunity comes on, I could be there for my team.”
Jevon Cottoy and Bryan Burnham, twice, had the other passing touchdowns, while Lucky Whitehead returned a missed Ottawa field goal for a 119-yard end-to-end score, 51 seconds into the second quarter.
Midway through the third quarter, Whitehead also caught a 63-yard aerial from deep in the Redblacks zone, setting the stage for Burnham’s second tally of the night.
“It's fun to see (Reilly) just get comfortable and just let the ball fly,” Whitehead said. “It's funny. Right before that play, I asked him if he wanted me to, like, give him a move at the top. He said, ‘no, just run past him.’ I felt like the ball took forever to drop.”
Just before halftime, B.C. found the end zone for the fifth time after a wild sequence of plays. Bo Lokombo returned an interception for 20 yards, three plays after Reilly threw his first interception of the season into the end zone from the five-yard line. The Lions’ excellent field position had come courtesy of a fumble recovery by the Lions’ Obum Gwachum deep in the Redblacks zone with 1:45 to play in the second quarter.
“I make a bad throw from the five-yard line and throw a pick in the end zone,” said Reilly. “A couple of plays later, our defence gets a pick six. That's the type of stuff that championship teams do and we're learning how to move in that direction. That’s the thing that I'm most excited about.”
Kicker Jimmy Camacho chipped in a 14-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. He is now a perfect 7-for-7 in three games this season.
In his first start since Nov. 1, 2019, Redblacks pivot Dominique Davis was 30 for 51, passing for 333 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Punter Richie Leone also passed for 29 yards, connecting for a first down on a third-down trick play in the second quarter.
Late in the first, Ryan Davis caught Ottawa’s only touchdown. Lewis Ward kicked two field goals and added a convert for seven points.
With the win, the Lions moved into a tie with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for second place in the West Division. The Redblacks (1-4) recorded their fourth straight loss and are headed into a bye week.
The Lions have now taken their season series against the Redblacks after beating them 24-12 on the road two weeks ago. Ottawa dropped a 51-29 decision to the Montreal Alouettes in Week 5.
NOTES: Lions defensive back Victor Gamboa suffered an arm injury in the second quarter and did not return … Complimentary cowbells were given to the limited-capacity crowd of 12,552 at B.C. Place as part of a half-time tribute to front-line and health-care workers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2021.
Carol Schram, The Canadian Press