How’s everyone doing? That sure was something.
Since the second season of the Chris Jones era, the Riders have been a team that’s found ways to win football games, and this one might take the cake.
The Green and White are now 5-2 thanks to a 31-24 CFL “after-dark” win over the B.C. Lions on Friday night in Vancouver.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb.
Oh man, we have to lead off with that ending.
The Riders seemed poised to lose their third game of the year and the season series to the Lions on point differential. Craig Dickenson did say he’d kick to win the season series, so a field goal was an option at the end, technically, as the Riders had to lose by fewer than four. Obviously, they weren’t going to.
Cody Fajardo had just turned the ball over on an ill-advised deep pass on second-and-six with a few minutes to go in the game when a simple first down would have sufficed.
Then they got the gift of all gifts in the form of a shanked punt. And a missed field goal prior to the shank, along with a poor decision from Lions head coach Rick Campbell not to go for two up five on an earlier touchdown, leaving the door open for the win with a converted touchdown.
The Riders got the ball at the Lions 44, eventually scoring a touchdown with two seconds on the clock to tie it and Brett Lauther’s conversion gave the Riders the lead.
If that wasn’t enough, the Lions fumbled the ensuing kick-off which Damon Webb returned for a not-so-meaningless touchdown if you had some money on the line. The Lions came into the game as one-point home underdogs. The game was set to be a push before that score.
The Riders have found a lot of ways to win games over the years, but this one might top them all.
What will be remembered from this game was the wild and wacky ending, but I think overall the Riders were the better the team. The Lions just made the most of some big plays and a few successful drives.
It didn’t show on the scoreboard for most of the night as the Green and White were unable to finish drives. It was starting to feel like one of those nights where missed opportunities were going to come back and haunt the Green and White as they have in the past.
Instead, the team overcame a barrage of field goals early and ended up finding the end zone when it mattered most with some majors in the second half that ended up being the difference in the game. They even overcame one of their biggest enemies, third-and-one at the goal line with the game on the line.
It was also a big breakout game for receiver Ricardo Louis who recorded five catches for 71 yards a touchdown. That’s notable because Louis’ inclusion in the lineup over Paul McRoberts has been a discussion point by many, including yours truly. The former Auburn Tiger earned his spot on the field on Friday night.
Defensively, the Riders didn’t produce a big splash play but played solid most of the night. Lions quarterback Michael Reilly was on the run a number of times and deserves a lot of credit for escaping and showing some pretty good wheels. Reilly did finish the night with just 259 yards passing and overall the Lions finished the night with fewer than 300 net yards of offence.
If linebacker Deon Lacey didn’t show just slightly better wheels to stop Reilly short of a first down before the shanked punt, that ending maybe doesn’t happen.
The 31 on the scoreboard next to the road team’s name is a little flattering.
As mentioned, the Riders had trouble finding the end zone against the Lions, settling for four field goals in the first two-and-a-half quarters of this game. Some drives will certainly stall, but even just one of those scores being converted into a major, and the Riders are suddenly in business.
The Lions scored on just two drives in the first half but ultimately held the lead as touchdowns will always beat field goals.
Also, what was up with the turf? Did they bring in the turf from Commonwealth Stadium from the 2018 Grey Cup? Players were slipping all over the place, including what looked like a potentially good return from Jamal Morrow.
While we all love football, there are ultimately more important things going on in our world.
It was a great decision by the B.C. Lions to mark the upcoming National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The orange shirts they gave away to fans in attendance and that are available for purchase are simply outstanding. The message of the entire evening is an important one.
It’s important we all take time to recognize the deep damage that Canada has done to First Nation’s people either through the residential school program or elsewhere and vow to be better going forward.