Riders strip streaky Lions of comeback in 27-19 victory

Minutes into the third quarter he arrived, long haired and shirtless. The streaker ran across the field, waved off an angry Gary Peters, then had a small dance-off with Odell Willis before being corralled by security. For a moment, it seemed like he might break free, arms flailing and feet churning, but he was promptly brought down.

The football on display was not much different. Both teams routinely seemed poised to explode offensively but couldn’t quite achieve their freedom. Just like the streaker’s fateful decision to keep his pants on, it was often the plays not made that were the biggest difference in this contest.

There was a spectacular Bryan Burnham one-handed touchdown catch ruled out of bounds by mere blades of turf, denying him of yet another catch of the year candidate. A 100-yard kickoff return touchdown romp by Louchiez Purifoy was also called back on a holding penalty to start the second half. You’d be hard-pressed to find two better highlights in any other CFL game and both were stripped from the scoresheet.

It was a game defined by stripping, in more ways than one.

With only field goals to show until late in the second quarter, B.C. was able to extend their lead to 9-3 after Victor Gamboa forced a fumble from Shaq Evans and Crezdon Butler returned it 13 yards into prime field position. The very next drive, T.J. Lee was able to pick-pocket a running Cody Fajardo, but the Lions were unable to recover. The Riders finished the drive with a one-yard William Powell touchdown, which tied the game at nine after a missed extra-point by Brett Lauther.

The torrent of fumbles turned in Saskatchewan’s favour on the next drive, as an unblocked Mike Edem unloaded on quarterback Danny O’Brien, knocking the ball loose. The ball squirted for 27 yards like a greased pig being chased by the Riders, before Makana Henry finally fell on it. The Riders would settle for another field goal to end the half.

After the streaker took the field to start the second half, the game finally started to find a rhythm.

The Riders overcame the kickoff return penalty to drive 85 yards for a Kyran Moore touchdown. Linebackers Cameron Judge and Solomon Elimimian ended back to back B.C. drives with sacks and forced the Lions to concede a safety. Lauther added another field goal. Then the fumbles returned when A.C. Leonard stripped Lions’ backup Grant Kraemer and Henry scooped it up to set up another field goal.

At 24-9, the better team seemed firmly in control, but streakers always appear when you least expect them.

After Kraemer was carried off the field with a possible concussion, O’Brien returned to help set up another Sergio Castillo field goal. Then, after Saskatchewan drove the field on the back of William Powell, Korey Toomer came through the line on short yardage and stopped Fajardo for a turnover on downs.

O’Brien worked the three-minute drill before heaving the ball deep to Burnham. The throw was behind but the electric receiver stripped the ball out of corner Elie Bouka’s hands to bring the Lions within a touchdown of tying the game.

The ensuing onside kick failed but B.C. got the ball back with under a minute remaining with a chance to force overtime. O’Brien again looked to Burnham, but this time Bouka returned the favour and ripped the ball away for a game-clinching interception.

In a win more dominant than the score suggested, the Riders defence held both B.C. quarterbacks to under 200 combined passing yards while also registering five sacks and holding John White to a meager 38 yards. Fajardo was a consistent 21-of-27 for 224 yards and a touchdown, while William Powell averaged almost 7.5 yards a carry on his way to another 100-yard performance.

The Lions fell to 5-12 on the season with the 27-19 loss. Saskatchewan looks to do a little streaking of their own in their battle for first place in the West at 11-5.

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