Lions prepare for West Final against Stampeders with home field and season series advantage
Healthy B.C. squad set to clash with hottest team in the CFL on Sunday at BC Place
Faster than you can say Romby Bryant, watermelon and Pilsner orders were scratched from shopping lists for Sunday’s CFL West Final showdown between the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders, who promised to fill and turn BC Place Stadium into a sea-of-green party place — if they could get past the Stampeders at chilly McMahon Stadium — lost a 36-30 heartbreaker when Calgary quarterback Drew Tate connected on a 68-yard touchdown pass to Bryant with only 20 seconds left in the game.
The defending Grey Cup champion Lions, who watched Sunday’s semifinal thriller from a New Westminster pub, beat the Stamps twice in three regular-season meetings and are favoured to win a berth in the 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto on Nov. 25. The West champion faces the winner of Sunday’s Montreal Alouettes-Toronto Argonauts’ East final in Montreal.
Calgary, now riding a five-game winning streak, and 10-2 in its past 12 contests, blitzed the Lions 41-21 at snowy McMahon on Oct. 26 in their last meeting. It was a mean-nothing game for the Lions, who had already clinched first place. And they played like a team with nothing at stake, at least initially.
The Stamps grabbed a 24-0 first-quarter lead — the largest deficit after 15 minutes in Lions’ history — and strolled to an easy victory as Jon Cornish racked up 86 yards rushing. All three Calgary quarterbacks — Tate, Kevin Glenn and Bo Levi Mitchell — threw a touchdown pass in the game. Mike Reilly ran the B.C. offence while starter Travis Lulay rested an injured shoulder.
Lulay, however, is expected to start for the Lions against Calgary this time, following a tune-up performance Nov. 3 against Saskatchewan.
The Lions won their first two meetings against the Stampeders this season, beginning with a dominating performance July 28 at McMahon, where they denied the Stamps a touchdown in a 34-8 win. Lions followed that up with a 27-22 win over the Stamps at BC Place on Oct. 6.
In their July meeting, the Lions’ defence frustrated the league’s leading rusher by keying on Cornish. He ran just six times for minus-one yards, and called out his offensive line after the game. Cornish later apologized for the outburst, just as he did following a Sept. 23 game at Mosaic Stadium when he mooned Roughrider fans and was fined by the CFL. He issued another mea culpa at a Stampeders’ news conference.
In B.C.’s October victory, Lulay threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Lions, playing without injured receivers Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce, won the key match to grab the tiebreaker against Calgary, should the teams have finished the regular season with identical records.
FOOT NOTES: The last time B.C. and Calgary met in a West Final was in 2008, when the Stamps won 22-18 at McMahon. Paul McCallum accounted for all the Lions’ points in that game with six field goals. The Stampeders went on to win the Grey Cup, 22-14 over the Alouettes, at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
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