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High-flying B.C. Lions look to stay undefeated against rested Ottawa Redblacks

Nathan Rourke has grabbed the early headlines this CFL season — and not simply because he's a rare Canadian quarterback. The 24-year-old from Victoria, B.C., powered the B.C.
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B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) and Sukh Chungh (65) celebrate after Rourke ran the ball for a touchdown during the first half of CFL football game against the Edmonton Elks in Vancouver on June 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Nathan Rourke has grabbed the early headlines this CFL season — and not simply because he's a rare Canadian quarterback. 

The 24-year-old from Victoria, B.C., powered the B.C. Lions (2-0) to a pair of lopsided victories to start the campaign and, last week, set a league record in the process. Rourke threw for 436 yards and hit a new single-game record for passing yards by a Canadian QB as the Lions thumped the Toronto Argonauts 44-3. 

B.C. has scored 103 points this year, matching the most any CFL club has put up in the first two games of a season (Toronto, 1992).

While much of the attention has been on Rourke, the Lions' defence has been solid, too, giving up just 18 points, including a single touchdown.

B.C. will need both the offence and defence to click once again on Thursday as they take on the rested Redblacks in Ottawa. 

Ottawa (0-2) is coming off a bye after dropping a 19-12 decision to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 2 action. 

Redblacks QB Jeremiah Masoli is trying for a third-straight game with more than 300 passing yards. He's hit the mark in six of his last eight starts dating back to his time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last year. 

Ottawa will add a potent piece to the lineup this week with running back William Powell making his season debut. The 34-year-old Kansas State product missed the first two games with an Achilles injury but was a full participant in practice on Monday. 

The Lions, meanwhile, will be without star receiver Bryan Burnham, who was added to the six-game injured list after suffering fractured ribs in Saturday's win. He'll be replaced in the lineup by Josh Pearson, a 25-year-old American who spent 2020 with the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Pick: B.C.


Edmonton Elks at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Friday night)

It's been a rough start to the season for both the Elks (0-3) and Tiger-Cats (0-3). Hamilton's Dane Evans leads the league in passing yards (884) but completed just 25 of 42 attempts in the Ticats 26-12 loss to the Blue Bombers last week. Edmonton seemed to be trending in the right direction on Saturday, jumping out to a 10-point lead over the Stampeders before Calgary climbed back for a 30-23 victory. Elks QB Nick Arbuckle threw for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his return to Calgary, the city where he started his CFL career. 

Pick: Edmonton


Montreal Alouettes at Saskatchewan Roughriders (Saturday night)

The Roughriders (2-1) will look to exact some revenge in the back half of this home-and-home series. Last week, Montreal's Trevor Harris started in place of Vernon Adams Jr. — who tested positive for COVID-19 — and threw for 262 yards and a TD, powering the Als to a 37-13 victory. Montreal (1-2) limited Saskatchewan's offence with eight sacks, three interceptions and five pass knock-downs. Riders QB Cody Fajardo will want to bounce back after connecting on 17 of 28 attempts for 191 yards in Week 3.

Pick: Saskatchewan


Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Toronto Argonauts (Monday night)

The reigning Grey Cup-champion Blue Bombers (3-0) are undefeated to start the season after posting a 26-12 win over the Ticats on Friday. Winnipeg defensive lineman Willie Jefferson had a dominant outing, with three tackles, a sack and a pick six — a performance that earned him a CFL top performer of the week nod. The Argos (1-1), meanwhile, are looking to recover from the ugly 44-3 loss they suffered in B.C. Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie called his team's performance "embarrassing."

Pick: Winnipeg


Last week: 3-1

Overall record: 11-1

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press