VANCOUVER -- The BC Lions look to get back in the picture atop the West Division standings, as they host the surging Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night at BC Place.
On top of looking to climb their division rankings, however, some Lions also seem focused on settling a score with Calgary – the same team that upset them in BC back in the West Final last season, before also taking a convincing win in this year’s season opener.
Like every other time these teams have met the past two seasons, a lot is riding on this game, as one of the league’s more heated rivalries could be about to intensify.
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For quarterback and former Most Outstanding Player Travis Lulay, this game could set the tone for what the Lions do in the coming months.
“This is a team that’s up 1-0 on us in the season, we play them a few more times down the road,” Lulay told BCLions.com. “We’re still relatively early in the year but now is kind of, these next six games are the middle of the season so you want to move into that next phase on a positive note so this is a big game for us.”
Through what’s been a season of highs and lows so far, the Lions remain within a stone’s throw of top spot in what is once again a highly-competitive West Division.
But after winning the Grey Cup in 2011, it’s been mild disappointment for the Lions, who were favoured to win the Cup last season but were eliminated by the Stamps, and once again this season are off to a slower-than-expected start after being so highly-regarded coming in.
On paper the Lions may be the most talented in the league, but as second-year head coach Mike Benevides reminded us after practice this week, talk is cheap. It is time to start showing results against a team that has been the Lions’ biggest road block in being successful.
“We’ve got to put it on tape, we’ve gotta do it,” Benevides told the team’s official website. “Forget talking about it, let’s show what we can do because they beat us, they were the better team, we have to prove that we can hang with those guys.”
The head coach and quarterback aren’t the only ones thinking back to the debacle back in Week 1, when Calgary capitalized on early turnovers to jump out to a 16-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game, and a 31-6 lead at the half en-route to a 44-32 win at McMahon Stadium.
The score flattered the Lions, who were pushed around in that game and realize that this game is about making a statement.
“I think it can be a statement game, especially since they’re both 5-1 so we really need to get this game since they got us on the first one,” said linebacker Adam Bighill.
“Especially the way things are working in the West right now – three good teams are really playing well, Calgary and Saskatchewan are on the top right now.”
Getting that elusive win against Calgary, Benevides said, will require a combined team effort.
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“If you don’t have all three pieces working together, you can’t beat these guys, you can’t,” he said.
“It’s really about playing that intelligent, complimentary football because if you lean one way or the other and they can run the ball or they can play the possession game, they’re smart enough to know that they can do that.”
And while he won’t want his team to dwell too much on past results, he did say the previous losses should serve as a reminder of what it’s going to take to overcome the Stampeders as well as any other team standing in the way.
“I showed them a lot of what happened last year, showed them a lot of what happened obviously in Week 1 this year,” Benevides said. “And also I reminded them of the other things that happened, whether it was the first game we played them over there last year, or the last couple years.”
All of those things combined with returning home and going against the team to beat in the West Division should lead to no shortage of motivation for the Lions, as they search for their fifth win of the season.
“They’re the best team in the league right now and hats off to ‘em, they’re doing a lot of good things,” said veteran defensive back Dante Marsh.
“We’ve got to go out and play BC Lions football, I don’t think we’ve been consistent in all three facets of the game in terms of playing at a high level at the same time, it’s been hit or miss so that’s what we’re building on each week and hopefully we come out and have a great show on Saturday.”
|The last time they met|
Friday, June 28, 2013
Calgary 44, BC 32
Jon Cornish put together one of the best performances of his career, rushing for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns, leading the Stamps to a 44-32 win over the BC Lions at McMahon Stadium....Read more.
The Stamps may be facing their stiffest challenge of the season as well, as they travel to take on a Lions team that has won nine straight games at BC Place, where the Lions are 15-1 since the renovations took place.
But while the Lions are quick to recall recent losses to their division counterpart, dominant non-import running back Jon Cornish said his team, the Stampeders, must have a short memory.
The New Westminster, B.C. native had a career day last weekend against the Riders with four rushing touchdowns, putting him second in the league with 676 rushing yards and a 7.3 yards per carry average.
For Cornish, though, that game is done -- now, it’s on to the next one.
“You have to forget whatever you did in the past game, because it doesn't matter,” Cornish said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Sure, it might put us in a better record or whatever. But unless we come out and do what we do every week ... it's forgotten.”
“So you have to have a big game every week.”
During last week’s 42-27 win over the then-undefeated Roughriders, which served as a bold statement to the rest of the league, Cornish had 115 yards in the first half alone, pacing the Stamps to a lead they never did relinquish.
This week he’ll have even more motivation as he goes against his countryman Andrew Harris, a Winnipeg native who sits just behind Cornish in third place this season for rushing yards.
While Cornish said his rivalry with Harris is mostly fabricated through media, the extra attention does get him fired up even more than usual.
“The media definitely helps in bringing out good games, because any time you have incessant coverage of a specific pairing of two players, I don't know, it makes you have to rise to the occasion,” said Cornish.
“I enjoy rising to the occasion, so it's not a bad thing.”
Cornish has only played 57 games since taking over for Joffrey Reynolds in the Stamps’ backfield, yet since his first career start back in July, 2010, he’s already become a top-60 all-time rusher in the CFL at 4,003 yards.
Led by one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the league, Calgary currently ranks second in scoring with 204 points and has not been lower than number two since 2007.
This week however the Stamps may meet their match against a physical BC defence, which is the only unit in the CFL to allow under 300 net yards per game at 282.
Returning to a familiar setting, however, Cornish hopes to solve that stingy defence this weekend, as one of many battles unfold under the Saturday night lights of BC Place.
“This is the only locker-room I've ever used here in BC Place, and I played here in high school as well,” said Cornish. “It never gets old. I like to think of this as my second city, and I really enjoy playing here.”
The Lions hope to make Cornish’s experience on Saturday a little less enjoyable.
Kickoff is at 4:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from BCLions.com and The Canadian Press