REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders came out on top in a back-and-forth battle against the BC Lions on Saturday Night, combining big offensive plays and relentless defensive pressure to claim the 38-25 home win.
A thrilling 100-yard kickoff return touchdown from Marcus Thigpen gave the Riders a one-point lead heading into the second half, but the Lions continued to stick around until three consecutive touchdown drives from the Riders in the second half sealed the victory.
Cody Fajardo connected on big passes early to give Saskatchewan the lead and finished with 17 completions on 23 pass attempts for 278 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Fajardo also used his legs to make an impact with 53 rushing yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Charleston Hughes had a dominant defensive performance for the Riders with 10 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Hughes is now up to eight sacks on the season.
Riders receiver Shaq Evans stepped up with his biggest game of the season, racking up 158 yards and a touchdown on just five catches.
Mike Reilly completed 14 consecutive passes at one point despite constant pressure from the Riders’ defence. Reilly completed 31 of 40 passes for 346 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss.
Lions kicker Sergio Castillo made all four of his field goal attempts for the Lions, and receiver Bryan Burnham had another productive game with eight catches for 106 yards.
The Riders got on the board first with a single point off of a 73-yard punt from Jon Ryan, but BC quickly responded with a 50-yard field goal from kicker Sergio Castillo.
Fajardo then got things rolling for the Riders on offence with a 36-yard strike to receiver Shaq Evans. Evans went up high in traffic to make an incredible catch, and Fajardo followed up the big play with a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kyran Moore. Fajardo scrambled to his right to evade pressure and made a nice throw on the run to find Moore for the touchdown, and kicker Gabriel Ferraro added the extra point to give Saskatchewan an 8-3 lead.
The Lions answered back with a big play of their own on a 53-yard pass from Reilly to Shaq Johnson, but the promising drive stalled and Castillo added a 24-yard field goal to cut the Riders’ lead down to two points.
BC’s defence picked off Fajardo on the final play of the opening quarter when defensive back Victor Gamboa reeled in a tipped ball for his first ever CFL interception.
The Lions grabbed the lead in the second quarter on Castillo’s third field goal of the game, a 29-yard kick that made the score 9-8 with twelve minutes to go in the half. But Saskatchewan jumped back on top later in the quarter when BC elected to surrender a safety deep in their own territory, giving the Riders a one-point advantage.
Reilly led a solid offensive drive before the half that included a 16-yard run and a 39-yard pass deep down the field to receiver Bryan Burnham. The huge catch from Burnham brought the ball into Riders’ territory, and Burnham moved it even closer on the next play with an eight-yard catch-and-run. Reilly capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, and Castillo added the extra point to give the Lions a 16-10 lead.
But the Lions’ lead did not last long at all, as the Riders responded right away with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown from speedster Marcus Thigpen. Ferraro added the extra point to put the Riders up 17-16 heading into half-time.
The Riders added another single point off of a 77-yard punt from Ryan to start the third quarter. But Reilly began to find a rhythm, putting together a drive that led to a 12-yard field goal from Castillo that gave the lead back to BC. Reilly connected on key passes to Johnson and Jevon Cottoy to set up the field goal.
Fajardo and the Riders’ offence responded with a scoring drive of their own that saw Fajardo find space for a 19-yard run before finishing off the drive with a tough four-yard touchdown run. Ferraro kicked the extra point to give Saskatchewan a 25-19 lead.
Reilly had the Lions driving to score again, but Hughes came through with another big play and got to Reilly for the strip-sack. Hughes also recovered the fumble, and the Riders’ offence then capitalized on the turnover.
Evans made another incredible catch to set up a three-yard touchdown run from running back William Powell that extended the team’s lead in the fourth quarter and grabbed momentum for good. The Riders went for the two-point conversion but were unsuccessful.
Evans sealed the victory for the Riders later in the quarter with a huge 50-yard touchdown catch. Ferraro added the convert kick to make it a 38-19 ball game with under four minutes to play.
Reilly and the Lions’ offence came roaring back to score again on a drive to end the game, with Reilly throwing a nine-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lemar Durant. But it was too little too late as the Riders walked away with the 38-25 win.
Both teams will square off again in Week 7 when the BC Lions host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on July 27.