Edmonton Elks' James Wilder Jr., centre, leaps over B.C. Lions' T.J. Lee as he carries the ball for a first down during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Thursday August 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Elks play spoilers, down Lions 21-16 for first win of 2021 CFL season

Elks play spoilers, down Lions 21-16 for first win of 2021 CFL season

VANCOUVER — A new local owner in attendance. Fans back in the stands. There were plenty of reasons to party at B.C. Place on Thursday.

But the festive energy that accompanied The first B.C. Lions’ first home game since Nov. 2, 2019 was dampened by the visiting Edmonton Elks, who earned their first win of the 2021 season with a 21-16 victory.

“I think that’s part of the disappointment with the guys,” admitted Lions head coach Rick Campbell. “Obviously, losing. But also, you wanted to come out here and find a way to win the game for the for the home crowd.”

After a frustrating 30-13 home loss to the Montreal Alouettes last Saturday, the Elks reversed their fortunes thanks to 296 passing yards and two touchdowns from Trevor Harris and 148 receiving yards from Greg Ellingson.

“Credit to the o line,” said Jaime Elizondo, who recorded his first win as a CFL head coach. “They gave him a lot of time in the pocket and that was one of the big differences tonight.”

Kicker Sean Whyte went 4-for-5 on field-goal attempts and Edmonton was awarded a safety midway through the second quarter.

Michael Reilly was held to just 128 yards, completing 15-of-25 passes for B.C. He was credited with the home side’s lone touchdown and was sacked three times.

“Not good enough,” said Reilly of his team’s effort. “Really, from the first snap of the game, it seemed like we just didn’t match the intensity that Edmonton was bringing.”

The Lions lost a key member of their offensive line early in the game. Joel Figueroa was replaced by David Knevel after suffering a calf strain.

“He’s a really good player and he’s an important player to us,” said Campbell of Figueroa. “But David Knevel is a good player too. We count on all our guys. You can’t have one guy go down to change the outcome of the game.”

Newly minted Lions kicker Jimmy Camacho went 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts and punter Stefan Flintoft recorded a single.

After starting the campaign with a pair of home-field losses, the Elks improved their record in the abbreviated 14-game season to 1-2, while the Lions fell to 1-2 with the loss.

Off the opening kickoff, the Lions looked ready to bring the party to their home field. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead after Camacho hit on his first-ever CFL field-goal attempt, scoring from 49 yards out after a 57-yard opening kickoff return from Chris Rainey.

Edmonton’s first points of the game came with 7:40 left to go in the first quarter, when Whyte’s 52-yard field-goal attempt bounced off the crossbar and into the end zone.

The Elks dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Lions 12-0.

With 10:05 left before halftime, Edmonton took the lead when Mike Jones caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. That capped off a seven-play drive that started on the Elks’ two-yard line and included a pair of costly penalty calls against B.C. defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper.

Thanks to a safety and a field goal, the Elks’ lead grew to 15-4 by halftime.

The two sides exchanged field goals early in the third quarter before the Lions notched their only touchdown of the game.

Video review was required to determine that Reilly had carried the ball over the goal line with a one-yard quarterback sneak that capped off an eight-play drive. Reilly’s pass attempt for a two-point convert was incomplete.

More field goals were exchanged in the final frame, but B.C. was unable to narrow the deficit to less than two points.

The game was a penalty-filled affair for both teams. Edmonton was assessed 12 penalties for 137 total yards, while B.C. was whistled for 13 infractions for 122 yards.

NOTES: New Lions owner Amar Doman was on hand, one day after it was announced the B.C. businessman had purchased the team from the estate of late owner David Braley. … Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry took in the game and spoke to the crowd of 12,500 in the third quarter. … Several Olympians just back from Tokyo 2020 were recognized on the big screen. … Classic rock band Chilliwack entertained the crowd at halftime.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.

Carol Schram, The Canadian Press

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