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Roughriders hang on to beat resilient B.C. Lions 34-29 in wild finish

Saskatchewan moves to 5-5 on CFL season, Lions fall to 7-3
Saskatchewan Roughriders punt returner Mario Alford (2) runs the football against BC Lions during the first half of CFL football action in Regina, on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

The Saskatchewan Roughriders held off a furious fourth quarter comeback to edge the B.C. Lions 34-29 in CFL action on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.

The Riders took a 31-13 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Lions scored 16 straight points to close the gap to 31-29 with 2:06 left in the game.

B.C. got one final possession with 1:08 remaining but two incompletions, followed by a sack of Vernon Adams Jr., allowed the Riders to escape with the victory. Brett Lauther sealed the victory with a 27-yard field goal with eight seconds left on the clock.

The win improves the Riders to 5-5, while the Lions drop to 7-3. B.C. entered the game with a 6-1 record against West Division opponents this season.

The Riders got off to a quick start following an early Lions turnover. On B.C.’s second offensive play, Saskatchewan’s Pete Robertson sacked Adams Jr., forcing a fumble that Anthony Lanier II recovered. The Riders took over on the B.C. 31-yard line and quickly took advantage of the turnover.

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Jake Dolegala hit Samuel Emilus for 16 yards and followed up with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kian Schaffer-Baker to give the Riders a 7-0 lead.

The Lions took a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter when Adams Jr. hit Alexander Hollins for a 46-yard touchdown pass. The Riders secondary had a mix-up that resulted in a blown coverage that left Hollins wide open down the left sideline.

The Riders regained the lead at the 4:34 mark of the second quarter when Jamal Morrow scored on an eight-yard run. The touchdown, which gave the Riders a 14-10 lead, was set up by a 46-yard leaping catch by Samuel Emilus.

On the ensuing kickoff, B.C.’s Terry Williams fumbled and Saskatchewan’s TJ Brunson recovered the ball. An unnecessary roughing penalty on the Lions on the play gave the Riders the ball on the B.C. 21-yard line.

Dolegala then connected with rookie receiver Jereth Sterns on back-to-back plays with the second reception going for an 18-yard TD. It was the first CFL touchdown for Sterns and it gave the Riders a 21-10 lead.

Lauther and Whyte then swapped field goals and the teams ended the half with Saskatchewan holding a 24-13 lead.

Emilus increased Saskatchewan’s lead to 31-13 with a remarkable touchdown catch at the 4:36 mark of the third quarter. B.C. defensive back Marcus Sayles appeared to be in position for an easy interception on the deep pass down the left sideline but Emilus jumped above Sayles and grabbed the ball, rolling into the end zone for the major.

The Lions got fourth quarter touchdowns from Keon Hatcher, on an 11-yard reception, and Lucky Whitehead, on a 78-yard scoring play, narrowing the Saskatchewan lead to 31-26 with six minutes left in the game. The Lions attempted a two-point convert following Whitehead’s touchdown but backup quarterback Dom Davis was stopped at the one-yard line by Riders linebacker Larry Dean.

Whyte’s third field goal of the game, coming with 2:06 left in the fourth quarter, pulled the Lions to within 31-29.


The Lions return to action on Aug. 26 when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Riders enter a bye week before their Labour Day Classic tilt with the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 3.

Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press