From the jaws of defeat

With the B.C. Lions trailing late in their game with the Edmonton Eskimos, quarterback Buck Pierce looked for Geroy Simon downfield — to no one’s surprise.

B.C Lion Geroy Simon celebrates his game winning touchdown in front of Edmonton Eskimos Bobby Keyes and Byron Parker Friday. B.C. won 34-31 on the last second bomb to Simon.

Lions 34 Eskimos 31

EDMONTON — With the B.C. Lions trailing late in their game with the Edmonton Eskimos, quarterback Buck Pierce looked for Geroy Simon downfield — to no one’s surprise.

What happened next left the Eskimos stunned.

Simon caught the pass and split a pair of Edmonton defenders, completing a dramatic 62-yard touchdown with 12 seconds remaining as the Lions rallied to beat the Eskimos 34-31 in a chilly CFL showdown Friday night.

Trailing 27-24 with 1:32 to play in the game, Edmonton got the ball at the Lions 30 after a poor punt. Quarterback Ricky Ray hit Fred Stamps for a 27-yard gain and then took it in himself from the one-yard line to put Edmonton ahead with less than a minute to play.

The game looked over, but Pierce found Simon on a long pass in the final seconds. As the receiver cradled the ball in his hands, a pair of Edmonton defenders collided — allowing him a free lane into the end zone for the victory in front of a shocked crowd at Commonwealth Stadium.

“Geroy looked at just the right time and I was able to drop it in there,” Pierce said. “A couple of their guys got tied up with each other and Geroy made a great run after the catch.

“It’s not like throwing a ball deep to Geroy in that situation was going to be a surprise to anyone but it worked. Everything just came together. We felt like the right team won that. We deserved that game.

With their sixth win in their last nine outings, the Lions (7-7) moved into a second-place tie in the West with Saskatchewan. Pierce threw for 301 yards, while Simon finished with 170 receiving yards and a pair of scores.

“You have to have your veterans step up and Buck and Geroy did that for us tonight,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono. “It’s a huge win for us. This was the first of three in a row on the road for us. We play in Winnipeg and then Saskatchewan. For us to stay in the hunt for a home playoff spot, this was a game we had to win.”

The slide continued for the Eskimos (6-8), who fell to fourth in the West and have lost three games in a row and five of their last six.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Eskimos coach Richie Hall.

“We had it in our grasp and then let it slip away from us. It’s disappointing but we’ll bounce back. We’ll lick our wounds and get back to work. There’s a good football team in that locker room and we will bounce back from this.”

There is no question, however, that the Eskimos have made their path for a positive playoff position a tougher one.

“It’s a tight race and we’re not helping ourselves right now,” Ray said. “We have dug ourselves a pretty good hole. From here on out we have to make sure we play full 60-minute games.

“That was a tough one. Especially when it is in the last few seconds like that. We had the opportunity to win but came up a little short there. They just made the play and we didn’t. That’s what happens in the CFL. It’s never over.”

The game drew 30,120 fans, mainly due to the cold conditions. Players and fans were greeted with a temperature of -4 C at kickoff, and a bitter wind made it feel even colder.

The Lions struck first at the six-minute mark as Paul McCallum booted a 20-yard field goal after Edmonton’s Jamaica Rector lost the ball on his own 38 on a fumble forced and recovered by Stephen Williams.

Edmonton got the ball back on a Lions fumble with a minute left as Trestin George bobbled a punt and stood stunned as Eskimo Jason Nugent hustled to jump on the ball on the B.C. 28. The Eskimos couldn’t do anything with the opportunity, settling for a single point on a missed Noel Prefontaine field goal to make it 3-1 after the first quarter.

The Lions put some real points on the board just 31 seconds into the second as Pierce found Simon on a 39-yard touchdown catch.

B.C. got the ball back quickly, after a pressured Prefontaine botched a punt attempt, throwing a pass instead that found Lions linebacker James Yurichuk. The Lions drove down the field and capped it off with a 10-yard rushing TD by Martell Mallett to go up 17-1.

The struggling Edmonton offence finally got something going with five minutes left in the second as Stamps made a great catch on a high pass from Ray and squeezed past the defence for a 40-yard TD.

The teams traded field goals, giving the Lions a 20-11 lead into the break.

B.C. built on its lead five minutes into the third as Ryan Grice-Mullen finished off the opening drive with a nine-yard TD reception in the corner of the end zone.

The Eskimos battled back on their next possession as Maurice Mann hauled in a 12-yard pass from Ray with Dante March draped all over him to make it 27-18.

The Edmonton defence kept B.C. from responding as Jason Goss came up with an interception in the Eskimos end zone, wrestling the ball away in the air on a long pass to Emmanuel Arceneaux. The Eskimos answered with a 23-yard field goal from Prefontaine.

The Esks kicker added a 42-yard field goal with four minutes left to make it a three-point difference at 27-24 to set up the usual dramatic finish in Edmonton.

The Eskimos travel to Toronto to face the Argos next Friday while the Lions are in Winnipeg next Sunday.

Notes: Despite kicking the winning field goal in B.C.’s last game against Saskatchewan, rookie Sean Whyte was replaced by McCallum due to his experience booting the ball in winter conditions… B.C. entered the game with the most sacks in the league with 37 while Edmonton had allowed the fewest at 21a Simon has now recorded a reception in 120 consecutive gamesa The two teams play each other again on the final week of the CFL schedule on Nov. 6 in Vancouver.

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