10/20/2012 01:03 EDT | Updated 12/19/2012 05:12 EST

Andrew Harris moves himself and Calgary's Jon Cornish into CFL history books

VANCOUVER - It took longer than expected, but Andrew Harris earned a place in CFL history Friday night.

With a five-yard gain 1:26 into the first quarter, the B.C. Lions running back surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career as the Lions clinched first place in the West Division with a 39-19 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos.

"It's cool, but now we've got first place sewed up and that's the biggest thing for us tonight," said Harris, a 25-year-old Winnipeg native.

Harris entered the game needing only 17 yards to reach quadruple digits, but he was held in check most of the night and gains negated by a penalty and tackles for losses.

"It was tough sledding out there," said Harris who finished with 42 rushing yards. "You just had to fight to get those extra yards. It was good to get over the milestone. I've just gotta get better from here. That wasn't my best game. There are some areas I need to work on and just go back to the basics a little bit."

While recording his personal accomplishment, Harris enabled himself and Calgary counterpart Jon Cornish became the first Canadians in 56 years to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Normie Kwong of the Edmonton Eskimos and Gerry James of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the last Canadians to accomplish the feat together back in 1956.

Cornish, a New Westminster, B.C., native whose team was idle Friday, surpassed 1,000 yards earlier in the season.

"It's amazing," said Harris. "Cornish is an unreal back and you know I'm just honoured to be in that same class with him and all the great Canadian backs we've had in the league. I know he’s working to get better and so am I.

"I'm just looking forward to being in the league with him for the next couple of years and seeing the numbers you put up for the future."

Harris became just the ninth Canadian to rush for 1,000 yards.

The last Canadian to do so was Edmonton's Jerome Messam last season. No Lion had rushed for 1,000 yards since Sean Millington in 2000.

"I wasn't really thinking about it too much," said Harris. "I was just going with the game flow and I knew eventually I would pop one or two decent runs. So it happened there in the fourth quarter.

"I don't know exactly when I went over a thousand, but it's just part of the game, you got to stay at it and stay focused on the things at hand."

He finally broke the barrier on a hand-off from B.C. quarterback Mike Reilly, who is usually the backup quarterback but started in place of injured starter Travis Lulay.

Lulay, nursing a shoulder injury, was in the lineup, but watched the game from the sidelines.

Harris has emerged as a star the past two seasons after reaching the CFL via the Canadian junior ranks rather than the more traditional and easier university route. Although tailback is usually a position for imports, he has paved the way for other teams to go with Canadians.

He was never drafted, but became Lions property when they listed him as a territorial protection while he was playing for the Vancouver Island Raiders.

Earlier this season, he set a CFL record for combined rushing and receiving yards that Terry Evanshen had held since 1967. Harris is in position to accumulate 2,000 yards on the season.

But the task became more difficult as he recorded just 20 receiving yards against the Eskimos. And, now that the Lions (12-4) have clinched top spot in the West, he will likely see less action in their last two games of the regular season.