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Lions, Elks feature new QBs in CFL opener

Jan 3, 2020; Boise, Idaho, USA; Ohio Bobcats quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) receives the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl most valuable player trophy after defeating the Nevada Wolf Pack at Albertsons Stadium. Ohio won 30-21. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams will feature new starting quarterbacks when the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Elks open the CFL season Saturday night in Vancouver.

Second-year pro Nathan Rourke takes over for the Lions after the retirement of Mike Reilly, who passed for more than 5,500 yards three times during his 11-year CFL career.

Meanwhile, Nick Arbuckle won the starting gig for Edmonton.

As for Rourke, who twice was selected as the top Canadian player in NCAA football (Jon Cornish Trophy) when he was at Ohio University, says he is ready for the task of replacing Reilly.

“They’re big shoes to fill,” Rourke recently told reporters. “This is an offense that requires a good amount of direction from the quarterback and leadership in terms of just being able to be cool back there and make plays and get the ball to our stars.”

Rourke, 24, started two games last season due to injuries to Reilly. One was in the finale against the Elks when he passed for 359 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions during a 43-10 road victory that enabled Edmonton to finish with a 5-9 record.

Overall, he completed 63.4 percent of his throws for 754 yards, three touchdowns and five picks.

Arbuckle will look to help Edmonton bounce back from a dismal 3-11 campaign.

The 28-year-old former Georgia State standout has passed for 3,405 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with the Calgary Stampeders (2018-19) and Toronto Argonauts (2021). There was no season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arbuckle made seven starts in 2019 when Calgary star Bo Levi Mitchell was twice lost with injuries. He passed for 2,103 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Last season Arbuckle started four games for Toronto, passing for 1,158 yards and five scores with six interceptions. He was traded to Edmonton after the season.

Now he says he is prepared to lead the Elks.

“Being able to work with the starters and everything since Day 1 has been everything I worked for this whole offseason,” Arbuckle said.

The Elks added receiver Kenny Lawler in free agency. He caught 64 passes for 1,014 yards and six touchdowns for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last season.

The Lions signed receivers Bryan Burnham (67 receptions for 965 and five touchdowns) and Lucky Whitehead (60-932-4) to contract extensions.

In last season’s first meeting, Edmonton posted a 21-16 victory in Vancouver.

–Field Level Media