A.J. Harris fills the void for Lions

For a guy making his season debut in Week 16, B.C. Lions running back A.J. Harris looks anything but rusty.

B.C. Lion Travis Lulay hands off to  A.J. Harris against Winnipeg Sunday. B.C. won 24-21.

B.C. Lion Travis Lulay hands off to A.J. Harris against Winnipeg Sunday. B.C. won 24-21.

Lions 24 Blue Bombers 21

WINNIPEG — For a guy making his season debut in Week 16, B.C. Lions running back A.J. Harris looks anything but rusty.

Harris scored the game-winning touchdown in the Lions’ 24-21 come-from-behind win Sunday over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The key touchdown came on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Travis Lulay at 2:03 of the fourth quarter following a Bomber turnover in front of 24,048 fans at Canad Inns Stadium.

Harris, replacing injured starter Martel Mallet, was signed by the Lions on Aug. 3 after playing 12 games with the Edmonton Eskimos last season. They released him in April.

“I was absolutely blessed to get the chance to play again,” said Harris, 25.

“On that play, I just got lucky enough to get right in (Lulay’s) sights, he threw it to me and I had a straight shot.”

Harris rushed 21 times for 89 yards and led his team in receiving with five catches for 92 yards.

Lulay replaced starter Buck Pierce with 8:24 left in the first quarter after Pierce injured his right shoulder while fumbling the ball.

Lions head coach and GM Wally Buono said he wasn’t sure of the extent of Pierce’s injury. No. 2 QB Jarius Jackson is out with a shoulder injury but may be ready to return to action soon. Casey Printers was the third-stringer heading into the game.

The game featured nine turnovers, five by B.C. But the Lions scored 17 points off Winnipeg mistakes, while the Bombers only managed seven points off B.C.’s turnovers.

The victory was B.C.’s third in a row and improved their record to 8-7. They’re one point behind Calgary and Saskatchewan, who are tied for first in the CFL West Division with 8-6-1 records.

Buono said Harris’ output didn’t surprise him because he played well in Edmonton, where as a rookie he had 99 carries for 557 yards and six TDs in his dozen games. He also pulled in 37 catches for 422 yards.

“Did he fatigue a little bit at the end? He probably did,” Buono said. “But for a guy (playing) his first game since last year, that was a tremendous, tremendous effort.”

The loss halted Winnipeg’s three-game winning streak and took their record to 6-9. They remain tied with Hamilton for second in the East.

Winnipeg led 14-0 after the first quarter. The game was tied 17-17 at halftime and the Bombers took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter.