‘I still think me and him have a long way to go and that just shows you what the ceiling is,’ Michael Reilly says of his partnership with star receiver Lucky Whitehead

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Michael Reilly swears he and Lucky Whitehead are just scratching the surface when it comes to their chemistry.

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Defensive backs across the Canadian Football League: Be warned.

“I still think me and him have a long way to go and that just shows you what the ceiling is because we’ve had a lot of success together so far,” the B.C. Lions quarterback said of he and Whitehead, the speedster receiver who has raced his way into fan favourite status in his first year with the club.

Going into Week 9 in the CFL, Whitehead leads the league in receiving yards (665) and yards after catch (339) while sitting second in touchdown catches (four) and third in receptions (36).


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The 29-year-old Whitehead, who signed with the Lions as a free agent in February, has also been a part of B.C.’s return game, highlighted by taking a missed field goal back 119 yards for a major against the Ottawa Red Blacks in a 45-13 win on Sept. 11.

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“He’s brought a lot. The physical stuff is pretty obvious. He brings elite speed. I don’t know if anybody else in the league has that level of speed right now, which makes our offence much more dangerous as a vertical threat,” said Reilly, who tops the CFL in passing yardage (1,860) and is tied for second in touchdown passes (10).

“But it’s not just raw speed. It’s talented speed, which is hard to find. There are guys who can run that fast but can’t play the position properly.

“His ability to run routes, to not be just a sideline threat but a threat all over the field, is huge. He’s a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball.”

Whitehead is from Manassas, Va., and played collegiately at Florida Atlantic. His pro stops prior to landing with the Lions including spending 2019 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-1), who provide the latest opposition for the Lions (4-3) when they come to B.C. Place Stadium on Friday.

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Lions quarterback Michael Reilly, firing the ball downfield against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday, leads the CFL in passing yards (1,860) and is tied for second in touchdown passes with 10 majors.
Lions quarterback Michael Reilly, firing the ball downfield against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday, leads the CFL in passing yards (1,860) and is tied for second in touchdown passes with 10 majors. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS files

The Lions are coming off a 31-24 loss last Friday at B.C. Place to the Saskatchewan Roughriders that saw the Lions cough up a 24-18 lead in the waning moments. A 26-yard Stefan Flintoft punt with2:08 remaining gave Saskatchewan the ball at the B.C. 54-yard line. The Roughriders marched down the field and took the lead with 0:20 remaining on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Cody Fajardo on a third-and-one from the goal line and the subsequent convert.

Whitehead fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Saskatchewan’s Damon Webb took it back for an insurance major on the game’s final play.

“Friday took awhile. They all take awhile when you lose. It certainly wasn’t Saturday morning when things were feeling better,” Reilly said. “I think it helps having a good, quality opponent in Winnipeg coming in to help you flush it. It forces you to move on.

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“It’s not to say that we glossed over things. We definitely got a lot of good teaching tape, with things to do and things not to do.”

Lions defensive back T.J. Lee concurred that Friday’s game stung “a little longer than usual,” but said that it’s important the team “takes advantage of that experience.”

“It’s given us the experience of having been through a game like that, a game that close,” he said.

“As a veteran, I feel responsible for our team mood. It’s about us talking to the guys and leading them and showing them how to respond after a game like this last game.

“Defensively we had played really good. Down the stretch, we didn’t hold to our standard, and especially with that last drive.”

Reilly says that Winnipeg is playing with confidence and “that’s the biggest thing in pro sports.”

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“All of the quality of players is very similar. Obviously some rosters have more talent than others. But, for the most part, the difference between the teams that win and the teams that lose is how they execute together and what confidence level they play at,” Reilly said. “More often than not, when you’re confident you’re going to win the game, you find a way to do that.

“Being defending Grey Cup champions and having a low turnover with their roster from that team has helped give Winnipeg a lot of confidence. But in terms of talent level, I don’t believe they’re any more talented than we are. We’re going to get an opportunity to go out and prove that. We’re going to have to play with great execution and great confidence.”

SEwen@postmedia.com

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