The Leos’ 2021 season ended Friday night at BC Place in a conflagration of touchdowns and crowning the future of the franchise.

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If you can’t be a playoff team, you can at least have fun.

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The BC Lions’ 2021 season ended Friday night at BC Place in a conflagration of touchdowns and crowning the future of the franchise.

Nathan Rourke had three rushing touchdowns in his first full-game start for the Lions, racking up the visiting Edmonton Elks 43-10 and ending BC’s seven-game losing streak.

The Elks (3-11), who came into the game after playing twice last week, looked tired and ready for the season finale. The Lions were the polar opposite; they played cool, fun and free. There were punts, offensive linemen nailing soccer balls into the Earth’s mantle at TD celebrations, electrifying punt return touchdowns, and an unnecessary, but fun! – number of full-backs in interceptions.

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The youth of the Lions was on full display; that same characteristic that cost them so much in close matches this year. Just a handful of plays separated this team 5-9 from a meaningless season finale and what would have been a winning record and postseason spot.

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BC Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke passes as Phillip Norman stops Edmonton Elks' Kwaku Boateng during the first half at BC Place Stadium on Friday night.
BC Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke passes as Phillip Norman stops Edmonton Elks’ Kwaku Boateng during the first half at BC Place Stadium on Friday night. Photo by Darryl Dyck /THE CANADIAN PRESS

But that youth has hardened in the intense flames of this season, an experience that should serve them well when 2022 rolls around next summer.

Rourke, who completed 23 of 34 passes for 359 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, showed why he is the heir apparent to Michael Reilly, who missed this week through injury and whose future remains undetermined.

Lucky Whitehead, the Lions’ most explosive receiver, had 92 yards and a 79-yard punt return touchdown, while Bryan Burnham had 69 yards and a touchdown. Both fell short in their 1,000-yard pursuit, with Whitehead finishing the year with 932 yards and Burnham with 965 yards. Dominique Rhymes led BC with four receptions for 103 yards.

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James Butler had the first 100-yard game by a Lions running back this season, racking up 109 yards on 18 carries for his second solid performance in a row. He also had four receptions for 37 yards.

The Lions eliminated the Elks’ QBs five times. They chased starter Taylor Cornelius from the game after he went 4-of-11 for 27 yards and three picks, then treated backup Dakota Prukop the same, harassing him on a 17-of-24 night, for 183 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown. .

It wasn’t the rookies who did the damage in high school, but the veterans. TJ Lee had two interceptions on the night, while second-year Marcus Sayles, Anthony Cioffe and CB Hakeem Johnson had the others.

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