Lions 38, Stampeders 36: Plenty of offensive upside, and some questions, in final preseason game
The B.C. Lions didn’t give their fans the Full Monty on Friday night but they did offer a glimpse of what the Lions, 2019 edition, will look like, and you can say this.
They came as advertised.
Here’s what we learned from their second and final preseason game, a 38-36 win over the Calgary Stampeders.
Reilly finds a groove
Mike Reilly, the man who’s charged with revitalizing this franchise, threw two straight incompletions on the Lions’ first possession.
On their second possession he went three of four for 45 yards, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by running back John White.
On their third possession, Reilly went five of five for 65 yards, setting up his own one-yard touchdown run.
And that concluded his night’s work.
All told, Reilly went 8 for 9 for 110 yards after his first two incompletions while completing passes to six different receivers, before turning things over to Austin Apodaca and the man of the match, the heretofore unknown Grant Kraemer.
Apodaca, who was in Montreal last season, had some moments in his two-plus quarters of work, going 11 for 21 for 115 yards and engineering three scoring drives, while being victimized by four drops, including a bullet that hit Mexican receiver Gerardo Alvarez in the facemark late in the third quarter.
The lowlights: Apodaca served up a 65-yard pick-six to defensive back Mark Myers and surrendered a safety when he was sacked in the Lions’ end zone.
The highlight: He produced a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, highlighted by a 44-yard pass-interference call on Bundy. Wayne Moore then scored on a 10-yard run.
Kraemer, who was brought in during training camp in Kamloops,played the last quarter, and stole the show and the win in his short outing. In his first possession, he produced a 75-yard touchdown drive, keyed by a 42-yard strike to Jamaal Jones. That score made the final four minutes marginally interesting and the drama was, er, intensified when a Calgary field-goal attempt clanged off the upright with under two minutes left.
On the Lions’ final possession, Kraemer converted a third-and-10 on a completion to Fernando Richarte, the Lions’ other Mexican national, before hitting Joey Augustin on a 49-yarder inside the Calgary 10.
Kraemer, who finished 6-of-8 for 145 yards, completed the winning drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Moore.
Aside from Kraemer, the quarterback position has been further complicated by the impending signing of CFL vet Danny O’Brien, who played behind Reilly in Edmonton last season before spending three years in Ottawa. The tentative plan for the Leos is to dress two quarterbacks this season. O’Brien qualifies as the most experienced of the backups.
Defence a work in progress
As long as Reilly stays in one piece, the Lions will score points this season. The question is how many points will the defence allow, and the Leos didn’t exactly allay those concerns on Friday night. While Reilly was lighting up the Stamps’ defence in the early going, Bo Levi Mitchell hit Juwan Brescacin on a 53-yard touchdown pass. On Calgary’s next possession, backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle speared Michael Klukas for 45 yards before hitting Aaron Peck on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
A 49-yard pass-interference call on Victor Gamboa set up another Calgary touchdown as the Stamps took a 30-16 first-half lead.
First-year defensive back Marloshawn Franklin contributed a second-quarter interception, but the Lions didn’t record a sack and surrendered just under 400 yards in total offence.
Chris Edwards, who started at the nickel, made some plays in the early going. Keon Lyn started at safety and was victimized on the Brescacin touchdown.
Roster still fluid
Friday night might have clarified some of the battleground positions but, with the season-opener a week away, much remains unsettled about the Lions’ roster.
Take the offensive line. Based on the available evidence, it looks like three-year vet David Foucault has edged out Brett Boyko for the starting right tackle spot. That seems simple enough.
There are, however, complicating factors.
Veteran left guard Hunter Steward played the second quarter at centre and he may supplant second-year man Andrew Peirson as the starter. In that scenario, Boyko would likely move to Steward’s left guard spot, giving the Lions an offensive line that averages 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds.
The situation, as they say, is fluid.
Elsewhere with the offence, rookie receivers Marquis Bundy and Jevon Cottoy lined up with the starters. Bundy, a rangy 6-foot-4 target, set up White’s touchdown with a 19-yard catch down to the Stamps’ one. He also had a drop on the first possession.
Cottoy, meanwhile, remains one of the Lions’ most intriguing figures. A 6-foot-5, 230-pounder with speed, Cottoy played with the junior Langley Rams last season and caught two passes for 27 yards against the Stamps.
At running back, meanwhile, White started the game but Brandon Rutley, who’s coming back from a torn ACL, had five carries for 25 yards, two catches for 23 yards and threw in a 40-yard kickoff return.
The Lions will make their final cuts on Saturday.
Saturday, June 15 | Season opener
Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs. B.C. Lions
7 p.m., B.C. Place, TV: TSN; Radio: TSN 1040
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