Walk-off single: Lions lean on John White for traction in rainy victory over Argos
John White’s compact frame ran smoothly on the slippery turf at BMO Field and Sergio Castillo kicked — not hit — a walk-off single for the Lions to earn the club its first win of the 2019 regular season.
White’s exemplary work combined with the rouge led the Lions to snap a three-game season-opening losing streak to beat Toronto 18-17.
After James Wilder Jr. took a pass 24 yards for a late fourth quarter touchdown, McLeod Bethel-Thomspon hit S.J. Green for a clutch two-point convert to tie the game 17 apiece.
On the ensuing kick-off, the Argos tried to pooch the ball to avoid putting it in the hands of B.C.’s returner. The decision backfired, however, as Drew Brown’s kick went out of bounds. That drew an illegal kick-off penalty and gave Mike Reilly the ball at B.C.’s 45-yard line with 40 seconds on the clock.
After consecutive completions to Brandon Rutley (14 yards) and Shaq Johnson (17 yards) the Lions were in field goal range. Rutley ran for four more yards and Castillo trotted on the field for a potential game-winning 42-yard field goal. Castillo’s attempt went wide left, but Chris Rainey stepped out of bounds while preparing his return. B.C. was awarded one point and that’s how the game ended.
The Argos found another way to lose, although Corey Chamblin’s group was much more competitive than the previous two defeats when Toronto fell by 50 and 25 points, respectively. Conversely, B.C. discovered a way to sidestep an 0-4 start. That happened by committing to the run game on offence during a wet, rainy, sloppy night in Toronto.
Ed Hervey brought White into the league with Edmonton back in 2013 and bringing the shifty runner to the West coast has already paid dividends. White rushed for a season-high 138 yards on 22 carries and an important major.
White has dealt with more than his fair share of injury struggles in recent years, including two season-ending setbacks in a three-year span — a torn Achilles during training camp in 2015 and a blown ACL two games into 2017. The 28-year-old has always had the ability to be a star at the CFL level, staying on the field has been the only struggle during his time in the league.
Perhaps the Lions just needed to be more balanced on offence to relieve some of the pressure being applied to franchise pivot Mike Reilly. Offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson put the ball in White’s hands regularly and the offence moved the ball effectively. Reilly was under siege for the opening 15 minutes, but settled down as White was featured more heavily in the offence.
When Reilly was needed he delivered, most importantly on the Lions’ drive to set-up the rouge. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 272 yards, one touchdown against one interception and rushed five times for 26 yards. Canadian Lemar Durant was his favourite receiver, catching nine balls for 125 yard and one touchdown. B.C. started four nationals around Reilly — Durant, Jevon Cottoy, Shaq Johnson and Rashaun Simonise — a rarity in the CFL, but the Lions made it work and produced a winning result.
The recipe of strong running, timely completions from Reilly, solid defence, and smart special teams decisions earned DeVone Claybrooks his first win as head coach.