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Riders edge Lions for fifth win in a row

VANCOUVER - Two unheralded Saskatchewan players spoiled the B.C. Lions’ guaranteed win night Sunday.

Backup quarterback Tino Sunseri’s first CFL career touchdown pass to reserve offensive lineman-turned-tight-end Dan Clark sparked the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a comeback 20-16 victory over the Lions.

“For me to get the first one, it was really special,’’ said Sunseri. “And, you have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line and Dan Clark for getting open on the certain play and blocking and all that. It was pretty exciting.’’

As a result, the 33,196 fans who attended Sunday’s game will receive a free ticket to a future game courtesty of B.C. president Dennis Skulsky, who promised a Lions victory to the biggest crowd of the season at B.C. Place Stadium, which included many Riders’ supporters.

The Riders (6-2) posted their fifth straight win and are now tied for second place with Winnipeg in the ultra-competitive West Division. The Lions (5-4) fell to third place.

The Riders triumphed after they were forced to play the second half with rarely used backup Sunseri, a 25-year-old Pittsburgh native who is in his second season with the Riders, at the helm. After playing the entire first half, starter Darian Durant was sidelined with a hand injury that, he said afterwards, will be further evaluated upon the team’s return to Regina.

“I never want (Durant) to get hurt, but we can all go in under a certain circumstance,’’ said Sunseri, a University of Pittsburgh product who had never been to Canada before signing with the Riders on short notice a few days before training camp in 2013. “Everyone was coming up to me on the sidelines and saying that they had my back and everything like that. So I knew, with the work that we put in during the week, that we were ready for it.’’

The game was decided on the final play of the third quarter. With the Riders scrimmaging from the B.C. one-yard line, Clark lined up as an eligible receiver at tight end and got his hands on a high Sunseri pass in the end zone and held on, while falling backward.

It was the second CFL touchdown for Clark, a 26-year-old Regina native who scored one on a similar play in his rookie 2013 season.

“The play was called and I knew I just had to make the play and catch the ball,’’ said Clark, who is usually a backup offensive guard.

The TD and Chris Milo’s convert gave the Roughriders their first lead of the game and put them ahead to stay before Josh Bartel’s punt single in the fourth quarter rounded out the scoring.

The Roughriders prevailed after both teams lost their starting quarterbacks to injuries. Durant completed 9 of 15 passes for 104 yards, but watched the rest of the game in uniform from the sidelines while sporting a brace on his right throwing hand.

 
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