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Rookie Rourke shines as B.C. Lions crush Edmonton Elks 43-10 in regular-season finale

Leos wrap up CFL year, miss playoffs with 5-9 record
B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) passes as Phillip Norman (50) holds off Edmonton Elks’ Kwaku Boateng (93) during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Friday, November 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Rookie Nathan Rourke threw for a mammoth 359 yards and the host B.C. Lions closed out their year with a 43-10 victory over the Edmonton Elks on Friday.

It was the final game of the season for both B.C. (5-9) and Edmonton (3-11) who missed the playoffs and finished the CFL season in fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the West Division.

Rourke was a force for the Lions, connecting on 23 of 34 attempts. The Canadian threw one touchdown, two interceptions and ran in three TDs in his second-ever CFL start.

Nick Vogel added three field goals for B.C., including a 44-yard kick.

Elks quarterback Taylor Cornelius was replaced midway through the second quarter after tossing for just 27 yards and three interceptions. Dakota Prukop had 183 passing yards and threw one touchdown in relief, but had two passes picked off by the B.C. defence.

The result snapped a seven-game losing skid for the Lions, who sputtered after starting the season 4-2.

A massive first half saw the Lions jump out to a 34-0 lead before Edmonton could muster a single point.

The offence was quieter in the second, with both sides limited to field goals.

Vogel recorded 43 and 44-yard kicks in the third quarter, then added a 24-yarder in the fourth. Edmonton kicker Sean Whyte made a 12-yard field goal early in the third, marking his team’s final points of the night.

The Elks finally got on the board with seconds left in the first half after Prukop sent an arching 45-yard bomb down the field to Armanti Edwards, giving Edmonton a first down at the B.C. 13-yard line. Prukop capped the scoring drive with a three-yard toss to Jalen Toliver in the end zone and Whyte made the convert.

Lucky Whitehead recorded B.C.’s fifth touchdown of the night late in the second quarter, weaving his way out of several attempted tackles and dashing 79 yards down the field for a punt return touchdown.

Just minutes earlier, Lions defensive back Anthony Cioffi put his side in scoring position when he picked off a pass from Cornelius and returned it for 25 yards.

Rourke followed the interception with a 33-yard pass to Dominique Rhymes and capped the drive with a two-yard run for his third TD of the night.

It was the second time a Lions interception turned into a touchdown Friday.

Earlier in the quarter, T.J. Lee picked off a pass and went for a 14-yard run. B.C. worked its way down the field before Rourke sprinted five yards into the end zone to give the home side a 20-0 lead.

There were some tense moments midway through the second when B.C.’s rookie returner Quadree Henderson went down with a serious leg injury. Players from both teams immediately took a knee as trainers rushed out onto the field and the former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver gave a thumbs up as he was taken off the field on a stretcher.

By the end of the first quarter, the Lions had already jumped out to a 14-0 lead.

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Whitehead appeared to dive over the goal line for a major midway through the frame, but the play was reviewed, with officials determining he had been taken down by contact. The ball was instead placed on the Edmonton one-yard line before Rourke muscled it over for a touchdown.

A trick play helped B.C. open the scoring. Vogel appeared ready to attempt a 52-yard field goal midway through the first quarter, but punter Stefan Flintof kicked it across the field to Jevon Cottoy instead, giving the Lions a first down at the Edmonton 30-yard line.

Rourke finished off the 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard toss to a wide-open Bryan Burnham in the end zone.

NOTES: The Elks were coming off a 13-7 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Tuesday. … Rourke got the start in place of veteran B.C. quarterback Michael Reilly who is on the six-game injured list with a linger elbow issue. … Vogel has made all eight of his field goal attempts since joining the Lions earlier this month.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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