The Calgary Stampeders put up a valiant second-half comeback attempt Saturday in B.C., but when the dust cleared, it was the hometown Lions who came away with a 27-22 win. That wasn't an easy triumph; B.C. was outscored 16-10 in the second half and 9-7 in the final quarter. In fact, the Lions could well have lost if not for a late Ryan Phillips interception of Kevin Glenn. Still, B.C. emerged on top, and that both clinches the Lions' spot in the playoffs and gives them an almost-unassailable hold on first place in the West Division.
It wasn't as if the Lions turned in a bad performance overall. They dominated most areas of the box score Saturday night, and that's always a positive thing. On offence, Travis Lulay turned in one of his best showings in a while despite the absence of key receivers Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce thanks to injury, completing 23 of his 33 pass attempts (69.7 per cent) for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while Andrew Harris ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (4.9 yards per carry), although he did have a fumble. Simon and Bruce were largely replaced by committee, which demonstrates B.C.'s depth; Nick Moore had a great game with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and Harris caught four passes for 52 yards, while Kierrie Johnson, Shawn Gore and Marco Iannuzzi all chipped in with three catches each, and Courtney Taylor shone in his regular-season debut, catching two balls for 29 yards. The Lions' defence also turned in a reasonably strong showing, picking Glenn off twice and holding him to 242 passing yards and a touchdown with just a 54.5 per cent completion rate, while limiting Jon Cornish to 60 rushing yards (although he only got 10 carries). It all might have gone for naught, though, given how close the Stampeders came to pulling off their improbable late comeback.
The standings care only about the Lions' survival, not how they did it, though, and that's likely to play a crucial role in the race for playoff positioning. With the victory, B.C. improves to a league-best 10-4. The Lions now are assured of a playoff spot, and they're two games up on Calgary in the race for first place in the West, which may prove critical. After all, they lost to Saskatchewan last week when a late comeback of their own fell short and they just about fell again this week, so they're certainly not invulnerable despite their record. With Calgary, Saskatchewan and Edmonton all playing well of late, the first-place spot and its corresponding bye into the West Final could prove to be a huge advantage, and the Lions have almost locked it up.
The Stampeders are just 8-6 now, so they'd have to pick up two more wins than B.C. in the final four games merely to tie, and the Lions clinched the season series with this victory, so they'd win a tiebreaker. Thus, Calgary would need to win three more games than B.C. down the stretch to claim first place. That's not completely impossible, as the teams do meet again on Oct. 26, and it's not out of the question that the Stamps could get hot and the Lions could go into a massive slump. It's quite improbable, though, so the Lions look to have locked up a playoff berth, a season series, and perhaps even a first-round bye all in one night. That's not bad for a game they almost didn't win.