The B.C. Lions are off to an auspicious start to their goal of the erasing any memory of last season’s dismal campaign.
Coming off a playoff-missing 7-11 record in 2017, the Lions wrapped their unbeaten pre-season with a 34-21 victory over the Blue Bombers on Friday night.
Jonathon Jennings threw for 182 yards and one touchdown as he looks to be more effective than last season when he finished with 16 touchdowns in 15 games.
“Obviously I wasn’t 100 per cent last year, but that’s no excuse,” said Jennings. “I’m excited to be 100 per cent this year and play well.
“I’m just going to continue to try and get better. Focus on the little things, like not taking silly sacks, don’t want to do that in the regular season. I put that on me. I’m going to clean that up.”
For Winnipeg there will be some important decisions to be made at the quarterback position. Starter Matt Nichols went down with a knee injury on Wednesday and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
On Friday, the Bombers fielded all three of their backup QBs, but head coach Mike O’Shea wasn’t about to choose a starter for their season opener at home Thursday against Edmonton.
“We’re going to look at everything,” said O’Shea. “You have to take everything into account. They’ve given us lots to think about. That’s a good thing. We don’t have to make a decision right now and it doesn’t have to be set in stone.
Backup QBs Bryan Bennett and Chris Streveler combined for 108 yards and two TDs for Winnipeg, which finished 1-1 in pre-season.
QB Alex Ross started for the Bombers, but fumbled on second down, allowing Odell Willis to scoop the ball and run it in 20 yards for a 6-0 B.C. lead just over a minute into the game.
“I wish I had protected the ball better in that situation,” said Ross. “We’ll see what the coaches decide. That’s the coach’s decision to make and whoever’s number they call is going to be ready.”
Ross bounced back, driving the Bombers to the 31-yard line where Felix Menard-Briere kicked an FG to cut the lead.
Jennings connected on passes to Shaq Johnson and Emmanuel Arceneaux to put Tyler Long in position to kick a 15-yard field goal to make it 9-3 at 8:51.
Bennett then came into the game and threw a 58-yard bomb to wide receiver Rueben Randle for a TD strike. A converted extra point made it 10-9.
Jennings answered back with a 34-yard heave to Arceneaux, bringing the Lions to Winnipeg’s 43. Long kicked a 46-yard field goal for a 12-10 Lions lead.
Menard-Briere made good on a 52-yard field with no time left to make it 13-12 at the half.
Jennings drove the Lions downfield early in the third, getting B.C. to the Winnipeg 22 before finding Bryan Burnham with a TD end zone pass. Minutes later it was 27-13 when defensive back Otha Foster ran back an interception for a touchdown off a throw by Streveler.
QB Ricky Lloyd came in for Jennings in the fourth and found Burnham, who ran to the Winnipeg 15 for a 38-yard gain. Lloyd dove across the goal-line for a comfortable 33-15 lead.
With under three minutes to play, Kenbrell Thompkins pulled down a 32-yard TD pass from Streveler.
B.C. plays next Saturday at home against Montreal.