September 21, 2023

Lions seeking playoff spot as they visit Elks on Friday

EDMONTON — The BC Lions have a chance to clinch a spot in the post-season when they visit the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium to close out a Friday Night Football doubleheader.

The Lions currently sit with 18 points, two back of division leading Winnipeg, and are coming off a high scoring 41-37 win over Ottawa. If BC wins (or Calgary loses on Saturday to Montreal) they will secure their place in the playoffs.

To accomplish that they will have to go through a red-hot Elks team that has won four or their past five games, including a much needed 36-27 victory over Saskatchewan last week.

Elks’ pivot Tre Ford has rejuvenated his team’s offence since taking over under centre. He threw for 173 yards, a touchdown and rushed for 70 in their win over the Roughriders.

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More impressive than Ford’s performance was running back Kevin Brown’s 175 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. The performance helped Brown crack the 1,000 rushing yard mark.

The Lions front will be put to the test against a dynamic backfield in Edmonton. Luckily for head coach Rick Campbell, his defence has been among the league’s best all season. BC has shutout the Elks twice and is coming off a game where they saw a similar tandem in Ottawa’s Dustin Crum and Devonte Williams.

Despite allowing 114 yards on the ground against the REDBLACKS, the Lions are still surrendering under 100 yards per game at 93.7.

Defensive lineman Mathieu Betts, who has 12 sacks, Woody Baron and Sione Teuhema have been a big reason for that success.

In the air, Elks’ receiver Eugene Lewis will be Ford’s top target with the support of Kyran Moore and Emmanuel Arceneaux. As the unit builds momentum, defensive backs T.J. Lee, Garry Peters and Quincy Mauger draw the assignment of shutting them down. With linebacker Josh Woods pulling down an interception on Crum a week ago, it’ll be a collective effort in slowing the Elks offence.

Lewis has been impressed by his team’s ability to stay in the game and pull out wins.

“Not giving up, just keep fighting until the end of the game and knowing that those last three minutes of a CFL game, anything can happen,” Lewis told reporters.

“It’s about getting better each and every week, holding everyone accountable and pushing the young guys and letting them know it feels good to win and we want to keep this feeling. We just have to be consistent and keep doing the things we’re doing and to keep getting better, that’s the main focus.”

Taking better care of the football should be on the mind of Vernon Adams Jr. after throwing three interceptions in last week’s game.

Defensive back Marcus Lewis, who had his fourth pick against the Riders, Darrius Bratton, Ed Gainey and Kai Gray all possess game changing ability.

While the turnovers are a cause for concern, Adams Jr.’s ability to lead the offence down the field isn’t. He’s thrown for 3,607 yards and 26 touchdowns, trailing only Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros when it comes to finding the end zone.

The last time the two teams met, Alexander Hollins, Keon Hatcher and Lucky Whitehead had 97, 84 and 54 receiving yards. It was backup quarterback Dane Evans who drew the assignment in that one as Adams Jr. was out with an injury.

When Adams Jr. was under centre in their Week 2 matchup, he completed 24 passes for 324 yards.

As potent as the Lions offence has been, the run game has struggled and produced just 1,016 total yards on the ground. In order to give Edmonton’s defence different looks, both Adams Jr. and Taquan Mizzell should be utilized.

The Elks front is dead last in defending the run but defensive linemen Jake Ceresna and Sam Acheampong both had a sack on Jake Dolegala and held Saskatchewan to a collective 61 yards on the ground, a significant improvement over previous performances.

While the Elks feel like they’ve learned from the last two meetings with the Lions, head coach Chris Jones has far from forgotten the outcomes.

“They’ve got an awful good football team,” Jones told reporters.

“They’ve done a nice job defending us. They’ve done a nice job of attacking our defence and making runs, throws and catches. We have to go and eliminate the things they do well and make them play left-handed if possible.”

The Lions are also looking to move into a tie atop the West Division with a win.

The Elks are trying to maintain their winning ways as they continue their bid to climb the standings.

Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET. International and U.S. audiences can watch the action on CFL+. Canadian viewers can catch the game on TSN.

With files from GoElks.com

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