VANCOUVER — The Edmonton Elks’ antlers felt a little less heavy on Thursday night, after the team topped the BC Lions 21-16 for their first win of the season.
Trevor Harris threw for 296 yards and Greg Ellingson had 148 receiving yards while James Wilder Jr. added an impressive 127 yards on the ground, helping snap Edmonton’s surprisingly slow start out of the gate this season.
Michael Reilly was 15-25 for 128 yards, as the Lions lost their home opener at BC Place.
The Lions opened things up with a 57-yard kickoff return from Chris Rainey. Reilly immediately looked to the end zone, tossing a 42-yard pass to Lucky Whitehead, wo was just a couple of inches away from sticking six points on the board in the game’s opening moments. The Lions had to settle for a 49-yard field goal from new kicker Jimmy Camacho, who made it a 3-0 game 59 seconds into play. Punter Stefan Flintoft’s 68-yard punt single gave BC a 4-0 lead and from there, the offence went quiet for the Lions.
Edmonton’s defence began to dig in, gradually pouring pressure on Reilly, who had little time to find his targets. Sean Whyte‘s 52-yard field goal made it a one-point game at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter and as the game shifted into the second, Harris and his counterparts began to finally find their stride.
Harris pieced together a seven-play, 108-yard drive that was finished with the QB finding receiver Mike Jones for a 10-yard touchdown. Whyte’s convert gave the Elks their first lead of the night, up 10-4 at 4:21 of the second quarter.
While the Elks’ defence stayed in pursuit of Reilly, getting a pair of sacks in the first half and a safety, Whyte sent a 24-yard chip shot of a field goal home to close out the half, giving Edmonton a 15-4 lead.
The Lions began to generate some momentum in the third quarter. After Whyte connected on his third field goal of the night (a 51-yarder at 3:06), BC managed to get a 36-yard field goal from Camacho to make it an 11-point game again.
Edmonton backup QB Taylor Cornelius lost control of a snap on short yardage that led to a turnover on downs that gave Reilly the ball at Edmonton’s 44-yard line. On the Lions’ quest to the end zone, the game took a chippy turn, with skirmishes spilling past the whistle on multiple plays. After an Edmonton penalty got the Lions to the one-yard line, Reilly squeezed into the end zone on a play that had to be reviewed for confirmation of the score. The Lions missed on the two-point convert, making it an 18-13 game, which is where the score stayed into the fourth quarter.
The Elks opened the quarter with something that hadn’t happened all season. Whyte missed his first field goal of the season, a 42-yarder that drifted right of the uprights. That led to a BC drive that was highlighted by a great 26-yard catch from Lamar Durant. The Lions had to settle for a Camacho 29-yard field goal that turned a five-point deficit into a two-point one, at 18-16 at 4:05.
Whyte had no issues making his fourth field goal of the night, hitting from 38 yards to restore Edmonton’s five-point lead near the midpoint of the game’s final frame.
Nursing that five-point lead in the final minutes of the game, Harris leaned on Wilder and the running back delivered, trucking his way up the field and milking precious seconds off of the clock for his team.
The Elks head to Toronto next week, while the Lions will travel to Ottawa to face the REDBLACKS.