New Lions quarterbacks shine in pre-season win over Roughriders

B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke passes during the first half of a pre-season CFL football game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, June 3, 2022. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

The B.C. Lions rolled out their new, young quarterback tandem on a high note Friday night as Nathan Rourke and Michael O’Connor combined to produce a 20-18 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders as the CFL’s 2022 pre-season wrapped up.

Rourke logged 145 yards off 13-for-19 passing in the first half, including one touchdown. O’Connor took over in the second, finishing with 130 passing yards and a touchdown of his own.

Saskatchewan used all three of its quarterbacks at B.C. Place Stadium. CFL rookie Jake Dolegala took over midway through the third quarter and finished with 77 passing yards and one touchdown. Starter Cody Fajardo played just over 20 minutes, passing for 64 yards and recording a one-yard rushing touchdown.

Mason Fine, who appeared in one game for Saskatchewan last season, returned late in the fourth, and finished with 36 yards.

The first quarter finished 3-3 as both sides connected on field goals.

With 9:52 left before halftime, Saskatchewan appeared to have recorded the first touchdown of the game when Fajardo found Duke Williams in the end zone. A video review by the CFL’s command centre ruled the pass incomplete. But then a Saskatchewan challenge saw the ball moved to the one-yard line after B.C.’s Jalon Edwards-Cooper was called for pass interference.

Fajardo gave his team its first lead of the game when he eased the ball over the goal line. Brett Lauther’s convert attempt was unsuccessful, keeping the score at 9-3.

With 1:24 remaining in the half, the Riders increased their lead to 12-3 off a 27-yard field goal from Lauther. Then, the Lions got the crowd roaring with 32 seconds left to play. Rourke hit Dominique Rhymes with a 45-yard bomb that brought the home team to the two-yard line. Bryan Burnham then caught a pass deep in the end zone for his first touchdown of the pre-season.

Whyte’s convert was successful, and the Lions took a 12-10 lead to the locker room.

In the third quarter, O’Connor took over at quarterback for B.C. Fine yielded to Jake Dolegala for the Roughriders with eight minutes to play.

Three minutes later, the Lions registered their first interception of the game at a crucial moment when Quincy Mauger picked off a long bomb at his own goal line. A sequence of defensive penalties, including a negated interception, helped B.C. move the ball downfield before Josh Pearson grabbed a 24-yard toss from O’Connor to push B.C.’s lead to 17-12.

The Riders grabbed the lead with 10:37 left in the fourth quarter when Dolegala hit Justin McInnis from five yards out. This time, it was kicker Henry Nell who missed on the convert, keeping the margin at 18-17.

The Lions answered back with 5:05 to go, retaking the lead as Sean Whyte went 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts.

B.C. finished its pre-season schedule with a 1-1 record. They dropped a 41-6 decision in Calgary last week. The Riders finished 0-2, losing 25-16 to Winnipeg on home turf.

The Roughriders and the Lions will meet three times during the regular season this year, as the CFL schedule returns to its regular 18-game schedule after just 14 games in the pandemic-shortened 2021 campaign.

FOOT NOTES: With 2:47 left in the second quarter, B.C.’s Phil Norman was disqualified from the game for rough play, while Saskatchewan’s Anthony Lanier received a penalty for roughness.

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