Lions 37, Elks 29: B.C. is heading back to the playoffs

The Edmonton Elks hadn’t scored a point against B.C. in two games this season, but their defence put a scare into the Lions before they found a way to win at Commonwealth Friday night.

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“Win pretty, win ugly, just win.”

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The B.C. Lions did plenty of the former early in the season, but the latter has bared a bucktoothed smile in recent weeks.

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On Friday, the Lions looked pretty before the makeup washed off under a withering shower of turnovers — including a 58-yard pick six — before holding on for a 37-29 win over the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium.

It was no Venus de Milo performance, rather more in line with Venus Williams’s famous quote. But it was a vital win, clinching a playoff berth for B.C. for the second straight year, and moving them to 10-4 alongside the West-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“I’m super proud of these guys,” said head coach Rick Campbell. “Beating them three times, twice in their house, it’s never easy.

“There were some tough moments. They were finding their way back into the game and that third quarter, we were getting their best shot. We just needed to stick with it, and our guys made plays when they needed to be made.

“It’s a big deal. Just ask the teams that aren’t in the playoffs if making the playoffs is a big deal.”

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Lions QB Vernon Adams Jr. connected on nine of his first 12 passes, but two of them were interceptions. Elks DB Kai Gray broke on a late throw in the first quarter and took it 58 yards for Edmonton’s first points against B.C. this season. He was also picked off by Darius Bratton in the second quarter.

A Taquan Mizzell fumble was also converted into points by Edmonton (4-11).

“It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done,” Adams said to the TV cameras as he walked off the field as the game ended.

Afterwards, his oft-repeated catchphrase was “I just have to be better,” as he ruminated on what went wrong. Plenty went right — 265 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-26 passing — but there were the two interceptions and two reads at the end of the half that forced B.C. to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.

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“I gotta be better for my team moving forward. We started off hot and was just kind of up and down … more down.

“(But) our team, we’ve got fight. We’ve got fight in us. Even since we had those two losses back to back to Hamilton and Saskatchewan, our energy has been different. (Making) the playoffs is amazing. We’ve got one goal out the way, and now we’re working towards the next one.”

Elks QB Tre Ford was held in check — mostly — going 20-of-26 for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t manage a long run until his final drive, when he had rushes of 20 and 12 yards, and finished with 43, while getting sacked seven times. B.C.’s Mathieu Betts had two sacks, and four tackles, including a tackle for a loss.

Edmonton running back Kevin Brown, who went into Friday’s matchup with 318 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games, was sitting at negative yardage after the first half before finishing with 18 yards.

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Mizzell had his best game in his short Lions tenure, banking his second 100-yard outing of the season with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

His best was a 48-yard dash that snapped the Lions out of a second-half slump — they’d had two drives for a combined -14 yards in the third quarter. It put B.C. in front, but the Elks didn’t roll over, breaking through for their first touchdown drive in seven series to pull within six points at the three-minute warming.

The Elks had 219 yards of net offence to B.C.’s 418.

Keon Hatcher was the leading pass-catcher for B.C. with 91 yards, while Justin McInnis caught his fifth touchdown — his third in two games. Jevon Cottoy chipped in with 88 yards, 57 of them coming on a touchdown catch and run in the second quarter.

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Ford was supposed to be the running quarterback in the game, but it was Adams doing the most damage with his legs, picking up 54 yards on the ground. That included an 18-yard second-and-10 conversion late in the fourth quarter that allowed flipped field position and set up the Lions to score a game-clinching field goal on their next drive.

“We have guys that are hard on themselves — coaches and players,” said Campbell. “Because they care so much, they want to do well. Some bad things are gonna happen and that’s how you learn, how you respond to it. I like having that guy (Adams) our team because he always bounces back and finds ways to make plays.”

jadams@postmedia.com


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