BY MATT BAKER
IF the Football Gods indeed exist, they were certainly not looking down on the home team in this one.
Trevor Harris passed for 380 yards three touchdowns to lead the Ottawa Redblacks ( 6-9-1) to a stunning 30-25 comeback win over the BC Lions (6-8-0) on Saturday night.
The tale of two halves went down to the wire and Bryan Burnham narrowly missed hauling in a winning 32-yard score with no time on the clock. Ironically, the comeback started when Burnham’s fumble gave the visitors a first down on the 24.
At two games below .500 and their playoff hopes slipping, Jeremiah Johnson admits it feels a little surreal in the den these days.
“Oooh man, you said it. It’s slipping away,” said the always-honest running back.
“Guys are either going to bunker down and get these last four wins or guys are going to call it quits and hang them up. As a captain you want to keep those morales up and try to get these guys to come out here and play. It’s the crazy CFL and you never know what happens.”
He isn’t lying with that last statement. But it doesn’t take a math major to figure out this team is in tough if it wants to extend the longest active CFL playoff streak to 21 seasons. They sit four points behind 3rd place Saskatchewan and two points behind the 4th place Eskimos who battle Montreal on Thanksgiving Monday.
Jonathon Jennings and the Lions came out firing on all cylinders and led the defending Grey Cup champions 25-6 before Harris went to work. After throwing a touchdown reception by Greg Ellingson, the Redblacks recovered an onside kick; which proved to be a big turning point in the result. A major by Dionte Spencer followed and Ellingson’s second score of the night gave them their first lead with 9:40 to play.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and didn’t make the plays when we had opportunities. They made some good plays on their (offensive) side of the football,” explained Jennings.
“It’s tough. Sometimes things don’t go your way, sometimes seasons don’t go your way, but we’re just trying to continue to play our way.”
Another key play that contributed to the turn of events was a Jennings interception to Corey Tindal with Ottawa leading by two. Harris then engineered a long drive that led to a Brett Maher field goal that made it a five-point game 7:27 left and rounded out the scoring.
“I thought that we had a good opportunity to Chris (Williams), said the quarterback of his turnover.
“It was one-on-one coverage and anytime I have coverage like that downfield I am going to take a shot. He made a good play on it; it was 60 yards downfield and changed field position. Worse things can happen. We were trying to make a play and they made it.”
The players on defence will be kicking themselves after allowing Harris and his receivers to make big plays throughout those final 30 minutes. Harris’ longest completion of the night was a 70-yard dart to Spencer that came three plays after the Jennings interception.
“We gave up plays that we shouldn’t have and it comes down to us,” said Solomon Elimimian.
“It really is hard, guys are spent, but we have to stay positive. That’s been our Achilles heel all year, giving up big plays. It’s disheartening, but we have to stay together. All we got is us. It’s going to hurt and it’s supposed to hurt, but we’re going to use this as fuel for next game.”
Elimimian once again led all Lion defenders with 13 defensive tackles. Ultimately, some miscues in the secondary were a big reason for the final result.
Johnson and company can only worry about themselves. They now face the daunting task of visiting 10-4-0 Winnipeg next Saturday.
“We have to finish games, ” added number 24.
“We had a two possession lead on these guys and everything kind of changed for us after the fumble. I’m not blaming Burnham, I am just pointing out the fact that we can’t make mistakes like that if we’re trying to win games.”
103– receiving yards for Emmanuel Arceneaux. The Manny Show also had two touchdown receptions in the losing effort.
105– penalty yards committed by the Lions. Perhaps the most crucial infraction was a holding call on Kirby Fabien to wipe out a Burnham catch that would have set them up at the seven with two seconds to play. Instead, they had to try a near-Hail Mary from the 32 for the win.
73.7– Harris’ completion percentage, proving he didn’t miss a beat after missing three weeks with a separated shoulder.
0- sacks for the normally stout Lions pass rush.
“I can summarize my thoughts. Fumble, onside kick and all of a sudden the game is totally different and the momentum is totally different. I think we have said over and over again, there is no pity on the weak, right? You’ve got to give them credit; you got to give Trevor Harris credit. They chipped away and chipped away.”- GM/head coach Wally Buono
The onside kick recovery was indeed the game changer. Full credit to Rick Campbell and the Redblacks’ coaching staff for pulling out that gadget. They needed this one just as much as the Lions and can now consider themselves in a battle for top spot in the inconsistent East. They are one point behind Toronto.
Ellingson came as advertised for the Redblacks. Containing number 82 was one of our pre game keys. Once he found space in the secondary, he was hard to stop. The CFL’s leading receiver finished with 149 yards and the two majors.
The end result masks likely Jennings’ best performance of 2017. His 375 passing yards are a season high and this was the first time he passed for three touchdowns since November 5th of last season in a 41-10 win over Saskatchewan to lock up second place in the West Division.
Micah Awe deserves a nod for his play in the losing effort. Number 51 finished with nine tackles and had a big pass breakup to force Ottawa into a field goal attempt instead of potentially taking a nine-point lead in the late stages.
This one will no doubt sting. But it also serves as a reminder that nothing is handed to you in this league. You have to finish. The players have acknowledged that and they will play their hearts out over the final four weeks, no matter how daunting the playoff chase now seems.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our fans and regular readers to BCLions.com. We have plenty of things to be thankful for. Your continued support of our website content is at the top of that list.