- Free Agency
THE CANADIAN PRESS
CALGARY — Having already secured spots in the post-season, tonight’s matchup between the Calgary Stampeders and BC Lions is all about sending a message.
The Lions and Stampeders secured first and second respectively in the CFL’s West Division with victories last week.
The Stampeders host the Western Semi-Final on Nov. 11 with the victor heading to Vancouver on Nov. 18 for the Western Final.
As a result, both clubs made personnel decisions for Friday’s game with the post-season in mind.
Stampeder quarterback Drew Tate gets back on the field for the first time since dislocating his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the second game of the regular season. When Tate underwent surgery in July, he wasn’t expected to return before the playoffs.
Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel says both Tate and Kevin Glenn will play in Calgary’s final home game of the regular season, which sets up a potential quarterbacking controversy en route to the playoffs.
Glenn, 33, led Calgary to a playoff berth during Tate’s absence.
“I’m a team guy, so I understand the bigger of picture of things and why they’re playing Drew and why both of us our playing,” Glenn said Thursday.
“If you’ve got two good quarterbacks, or quarterbacks who have shown they can win, you’ve got to make sure both of them are ready going into the playoffs.”
The Lions are handing Mike Reilly the ball for the second week in a row. Travis Lulay’s shoulder is still sore and there is no urgency for B.C.’s starting quarterback to play this week in what will be a chilly game at McMahon Stadium.
“He’s been trying to get loose, and yesterday the plan was to try and give it a go, but it was pretty cool back home and he couldn’t get warm,” Lions coach Mike Benevides explained.
“Obviously we’ve got to get him to play as soon as we can. Certainly next week he’s got to get some snaps for sure so that we gain some of the rhythm back.”
Thomas DeMarco will be Reilly’s backup. Also, receiver Geroy Simon comes back into B.C.’s lineup after sitting out three games with a hamstring injury. Friday’s game is a chance for both Tate and Simon to shake off rust in a low-stakes game.
“I haven’t played in a number of weeks, so I’m just looking to get back on the field and get some timing with the quarterbacks and get back in the flow of playing,” said Simon, the CFL’s all-time receiving leader.
Tate wrestled Calgary’s starting job away from Henry Burris late last season, prompting the trade of Burris to Hamilton in January. The 28-year-old Tate says Hufnagel hasn’t indicated how much he’ll play Friday.
“I don’t care how many reps I get. All I care about is the reps I do get,” Tate said.
“I know once I get on that field, the only thing that matters is moving the chains and putting the ball in the end zone. I look at it myself as when I get on that field, we’re going to make something happen regardless if I’m the backup, starter or third team.”
The Lions are winners of three in a row, including last week’s 39-19 win at home over Edmonton. Reilly was 19-for-28 in passing for 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first CFL start.
The Central Washington product spent time on the practice roster of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers during his career and counts Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers among his friends.
With scattered flurries and a temperature of -10 C forecasted for Friday’s game, Reilly has queried Rodgers about playing on frigid Lambeau Field.
“I talk to him every couple of weeks and just keep in touch,” Reilly said. “I figured if I’m going to ask somebody how to play in the snow, that’s probably the best guy to ask.
“He just basically said ‘keep your head and your hands warm and let the rest worry about itself. As long as you can grip the ball fine and your head and ears are warm so you can think, things will be all right.”’
The Stampeders have won two in a row and can thank their defence for a 34-32 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in wintry conditions last week. Calgary turned the ball over seven times in that game, including four interceptions on Glenn.
“My biggest disappointment from that game was bad football by the offence,” Hufnagel said.
“I’d like to see improvement by my football team. With Drew, once he gets on the field, (I’d like) to see him being Drew Tate, a comfortable quarterback making plays and executing the game plan.”
B.C. has beaten Calgary in their two previous meetings this season – a 27-22 win on Oct. 6 and a 34-8 thumping back on July 28.
Stampeder defensive back Keon Raymond was the hero of last week’s win with a pair of sacks and a 100-yard touchdown interception. He concedes the Lions may have had better quality practices this week because they haven’t had to run around in the cold.
“But it all changes once you come out here,” Raymond said. “This is a different element out here. This is the tundra.
“They haven’t experienced it yet.”
Calgary concludes the regular season against Edmonton next week. The Lions finish up at home against Saskatchewan and then rest the week of the division semifinal.
Notes: Calgary’s Jon Cornish is 132 yards from passing Norm Kwong’s record for the most rushing yards in a single season by a Canadian running back. . . Defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell will be back in the Lions’ lineup Friday. He missed three games with injury and was benched last week for a tweet the club deemed inappropriate . . . Lions defensive end Kerwon Williams leads the CFL in sacks (11), followed by Calgary’s Charleston Hughes (10).