Canadian Football League

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lions light it up on first day of Canadian Football League regular season

B.C. Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson made the Saskatchewan Roughriders' highly regarded defence look woefully over-rated in the opening CFL game for both teams Friday.
Dickenson eviscerated Saskatchewan's coverage for five touchdown passes as the Lions beat Saskatchewan 45-28 before 27,539 fans at B.C. Place Stadium. Dickenson constructed touchdown drives on B.C.'s first two possessions, tossing a four-yard strike to Geroy Simon on their first opportunity and a 36-yarder on their second possession.
"We played our game,'' said Simon, who had 10 catches for 110 yards. "We made plays whenever we could because the blocking was good and Dave was even better.''
Saskatchewan's offence didn't look much better than its defence until the game wound down, gaining 350 yards yards under the guidance of new quarterback Kerry Joseph, who was their primary acquisition in the offseason dispersal draft of the Ottawa Renegades.
With the arrival of Joseph, receiver Jason Armstead, fullback Cory Hathaway and offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell, all former Renegades, and the return to health of wideout Matt Dominguez, the Roughriders wanted to rework their ineffective ball-control offence of past seasons into a deep-passing attack.
Joseph was harried throughout the contest and his low-trajectory passes were repeatedly swatted away by Lions defenders. He was intercepted once and, midway through the fourth quarter fumbled the football, which Lions linebacker Jamall Johnson returned 39 yards for a touchdown.
Joseph, who was 18-for-36 for 245 yards, threw touchdown passes of 27 yards to Jamel Richardson and 18 yards to Jason French. Saskatchewan added a fourth-quarter touchdown on a one-yard run by backup tailback Dominique Dorsey.
Rookie kicker Luca Congi made his first professional field goal, a 44-yarder in the second quarter, and later made another before adding three converts and a single.
Saskatchewan's defence, which was ranked second last season in most major categories and long touted to be the Roughriders' strength, couldn't put pressure on Dickenson even though the Lions were playing with a rebuilt offensive line.
Dickenson completed 28 of 33 passes for 362 yards before being replaced by Jarious Jackson to start the fourth quarter. Dickenson also threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Paris Jackson, eight yards to Ryan Thelwell and 70 yards to Tony Simmons. Lions slotback Jason Clermont suffered a strained knee during the first half.
Lions kicker Paul McCallum, who left Saskatchewan as a free agent in the offseason, had six converts and a 36-yard field goal. After the field goal he pointed at the Roughriders bench; Roughriders head coach Danny Barrett looked to be waving back.
Saskatchewan's defence has undergone some changes, with linebacker Jackie Mitchell moving to safety and Almondo Curry, a former all-star with the Montreal Alouettes, replacing retired cornerback LaDouphyous McCalla. Mike McCullough is the new middle linebacker.
"We did all that we can,'' said Roughriders defensive end Terrell Jurineack, who played his first game since undergoing back surgery that ended his 2005 season. "We got as much pressure as we could.'
Dickenson got hit hard only once, when Mitchell nailed him while the nimble quarterback was completing a 13-yard pass to tailback Antonio Warren. The defence's ineffectiveness prompted Roughriders general manager Roy Shivers, who was on the sidelines, to engage in several animated conversations with his team's defensive players.
"I was surprised they were that effective against our defence that early in the game,'' said Barrett. "They took what was given and made the most of it.''
The teams meet again June 25 at Taylor Field. The Roughriders actually face the Lions three times in their first four games, with another trip to B.C. Place Stadium slated for July 14. The West rivals are slated to meet each other four times this season.


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