OneRepublic was the pre-game headliner. For the main event, that award clearly belonged to James Butler. Looking to make a big impression early in their sophomore year, the Lions scored four first-half touchdowns — two rushing, two received — and added 141 all-purpose yards as the BC hometown Lions ended their season with a 59-15 Victory began for the Edmonton Elks in front of 34,082 fans at BC Place.
Aided by Butler’s heroics, a stable Nathan Rourke who stood 26/29 for 282 yards, and a suffocating defense that recorded four interceptions and four sacks, the home side jumped out to a 42-6 halftime lead on a magical night downtown Vancouver. Now for some gameplay footage of Matt Baker after a big opening night win.
The butler did it
The organization was still struggling with this question when the camp broke up. What will they get out of the running game this season? For now, Butler has allayed those concerns. With over 100 yards on the ground, he has now set the tone for what this running game can achieve.
“Just the preparation and the team that believes in me. I have to give these guys this O-line. They locked their butts,” Butler said of the overall performance.
“And then (number) 12 (Rourke) and the coach obviously believed in me. It was an amazing achievement. I got so many text messages. It is great. My cell phone explodes. I have to get back to you tomorrow. But I have to text my mother back tonight (laughs).”
First a team guy. Butler was happier that he was able to celebrate a win.
“It feels great. We knew it was going to be a full house at BC Place. We definitely wanted to give people a reason to come back and we wanted to execute. Go into bye week, empty that Tank, we have a week to prepare and build on our next opponent.”
And he was within a yard of a fifth touchdown in the fourth quarter. The other Lion Majors came on two Rourke runs, a connection with Keon Hatcher late in the second quarter and a one-yard slump from Michael O’Connor after Butler was out for a fifth time.
defense holds its own
They don’t deserve to be overshadowed for their efforts. TJ Lee had two of the interceptions, the others came in the late game from Loucheit Puriofy and Garry Peters. Newcomer Sione Tehuema had a pair of sacks as the Lions excelled on both sides of the line of scrimmage in that game. Head coach Rick Campbell praised their efforts.
“I was happy again. We had some new guys making plays and then these DBs getting the interceptions. Obviously it’s more fun to play defense when you’re up front, but the interceptions they made were good interceptions,” Campbell said.
“It wasn’t rubbish. They broke on ball and made some good plays so I’m happy to see that.
Overall, they held Edmonton from just three field goals from Sergio Castillo and a quick touchdown from Kai Locksley to start the second half.
Rourke was outstanding on his debut in 2022, helped by a cleat performance from the offensive line. His ability to climb and make plays was a big boost to that offense. Case in point: his 17-yard touchdown run on a bootleg in the third quarter. Rourke was a quick starter in this game as well and immediately constructed an 11-play touchdown drive – Butler’s first major of the night. Let the new era begin.
“You kind of hope these things will happen, but you don’t expect it. It’s a nice surprise,” Rourke said of the blowout.
“Now we know what we are capable of. The goal now is to continue playing at this level.”
42- The first-half point total was a franchise record and also tied the team mark for most in each half.
34:49- the Lionsn owned time of possession.
89.7- Rourke’s completion percentage is this. He was 26/29 and completed his first eight rounds in the evening.
108– Butler has passed the century mark locally.
The Lions now have a bye before hosting the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday, June 25.
Matt Baker: [email protected]