Bombers take down Lions in sea­son opener

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Gemma KARSTENS-SMITH

VAN­COU­VER — Coach DeVone Clay­brooks says his B.C. Lions beat them­selves on Satur­day night.

Fac­ing a proven Win­nipeg Blue Bombers squad stacked with veter­ans, the re­vamped Lions team strug­gled to con­nect, drop­ping balls, al­low­ing in­ter­cep­tions and tak­ing un­nec­es­sary penal­ties in a 33-23 loss.

“It’s about the de­tails. The cham­pi­onship teams play the de­tails bet­ter than any­one else. And you make the av­er­age plays ev­ery day,” Clay­brooks said.

“Be­ing bland is great in this game. If you’re bland and you’re do­ing what you’re sup­posed to do, you’ll be just fine.”

Er­rors weren’t lim­ited to a sin­gle area, the coach added.

“It wasn’t just the of­fence or the de­fence or spe­cial teams. Ev­ery unit took a turn mess­ing up the play,” he said.

“But when you play a good team like (Win­nipeg), they’ll make you pay for those mis­takes.”

The game, a sea­son opener for both sides, wasn’t pris­tine for the Bombers ei­ther, said coach Mike O’Shea.

“This one was an odd one,” he said.

“This game had every­thing. As a head coach we will scoot out of here with the two points but we have a lot of work to do to clean it up all up. It cer­tainly wasn’t the clean­est game you would hope for.”

Both teams had er­rors, but the Bombers (1-0) kept fight­ing, said quar­ter­back Matt Ni­chols, who tossed for 184 yards and three touch­downs, fin­ish­ing 21 of his 33 pass­ing at­tempts.

“We played some good com­pli­men­tary foot­ball, all sides pick­ing each other up,” he said.

“That’s what this team is all about, hav­ing each oth­ers backs.”

B.C. un­der­went a mas­sive re­vamp of the ros­ter and coach­ing staff over the off-sea­son, so Win­nipeg wasn’t en­tirely sure what they would face on Satur­day, Ni­chols added.

“I think we had a good plan that kind of handled every­thing, con­verted some good sec­ond downs,” he said.

“We fin­ished off drives with touch­downs in­stead of field goals which was key tonight.”

Re­ceiver Drew Woli­tarsky reeled in two strikes for the Bombers, while Darvin Adams added an­other. Quar­ter­back Chris Strevler also man­aged to sneak across the goal line.

Win­nipeg kicker Justin Med­lock put away a sin­gle 30-yard field goal.

The mo­men­tum swung in the third quar­ter af­ter Lions quar­ter­back Mike Reilly threw a 15yard touchdown pass to Le­mar Du­rant.

B.C. kicker Ser­gio Castillo lined up for the con­ver­sion, but his at­tempt was blocked by Win­nipeg’s Mar­cus Sayles.

Bombers de­fen­sive back Bran­don Alexander picked the bounc­ing ball off the turf and got it off to Chan­dler Fen­ner, who ran it 80-yards down the field to col­lect two points for Win­nipeg.

“It’s a good play. They are very smart guys,” O’Shea said.

“They know there’s no con­se­quence to pitch­ing it. They have to keep that ball alive. It was well ex­e­cuted.”

Reilly tal­lied 324 pass­ing yards for the Lions (0-1), con­nect­ing on 22-of 39-at­tempts.

He threw one TD pass and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Bryan Burn­ham was a fre­quent tar­get for Reilly, notch­ing 153 re­ceiv­ing yards.

The Lions had a de­cent pass­ing game, the re­ceiver said, but strug­gled on the run and with get­ting across the goal line.

“We just didn’t fin­ish drives. We made big plays but then we stalled and left a lot of plays out there on the field,” Burn­ham said.

“I think this one kind of snuck up and punched us in the face. It woke us up a lit­tle bit.”

One bright spot for the Lions was Bran­don Rut­ley.

The 30-year-old run­ning back brought fans to their feet in the sec­ond quar­ter, streak­ing down the field for a 108-yard punt re­turn in the sec­ond quar­ter.

“I wanted to give a spark to the team,” he said.

“If I see a lane, I’ve got to go.” Rut­ley played just one game for B.C. last sea­son, where he suf­fered an ACL tear.

In hind­sight, the in­jury was a “bless­ing in dis­guise,” he said, adding that he had a chance to spend more time with his now wife.

“I needed that bal­ance,” Rut­ley said.

“And that helped me with my re­cov­ery and get­ting to this point.”

Next up, the Lions will visit the Eski­mos in Ed­mon­ton on Fri­day.

The Bombers have a bye next week and will re­turn to ac­tion on June 27 when they host the Eski­mos.

Win­nipeg’s Kyrie Wil­son left the game in the fourth quar­ter with an ap­par­ent shoul­der in­jury... Rut­ley’s 108-yard punt re­turn was the third long­est in Lions his­tory... B.C. is one of four CFL teams with a first-time head coach this sea­son. Clay­brooks is joined by Or­londo Stein­auer with the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats, Craig Dick­en­son of the Saskatchew­an Roughrid­ers and Mon­treal Alou­ettes bench boss Khari Jones.



Win­nipeg Blue Bombers’ Adam Bighill (4) breaks up a pass in­tended for B.C. Lions’ Bryan Burn­ham (16) dur­ing CFL foot­ball ac­tion in Van­cou­ver on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.