October 12, 2023

Ticats host Lions to kick off Week 19


HAMILTON — The BC Lions make the trip east to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with both teams having plenty left to play for with three weeks remaining in the regular season. 

BC fell 34-26 in overtime to Winnipeg in Week 18 to drop a game behind the Blue Bombers for first in the West Division. With just two games left on their schedule, the Lions need a win if they hope to have a chance at locking down a bye to the Western Final.

On the other sideline, Hamilton is coming off a dominant performance that saw them down the Saskatchewan Roughriders 38-13 to remain a game back of Montreal for second in the East.

The only previous meeting between the teams this season ended in a 30-13 Ticats win in Week 12.

» Depth Charts: HAM | BC
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Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. will go head-to-head with a Ticats pass defence feeling good about themselves after holding the Riders to 179 yards.

The job ahead for the likes of defensive backs Stavros Katsantonis, Kenneth George Jr. and Will Sunderland only gets tougher as they aim to shutdown Adams Jr. and a deep receiving corps full of playmakers. Keon Hatcher and Alexander Hollins have both surpassed the 1,000 yard mark, while Dominique Rhymes is coming off a game in which he pulled down five catches for 107 yards.

Adams Jr. expects his team to leave their most recent loss in the past and refocus on a tough Hamilton team.

“That’s the goal this week, to bounce back,” Adams Jr. told reporters. “That’s a great team, a great defensive coordinator. I’m expecting a great matchup. They’re going to bring it, they’re fighting for stuff, we’re fighting for stuff. We have to bring our A game.”

As the Lions rely heavily on the pass, they’re searching for answers on the ground as they get ready to face a defensive front surrendering 119.1 rushing yards per game. Without starter Taquan Mizzell who will miss the game with a rib injury, the rushing duties fall on JaQuan Hardy and David Mackie.

Orlondo Steinauer’s offence has two games to decide who leads them under centre in the post-season and the options are plentiful after struggling with depth at the position for the majority of the season due to injuries. Bo Levi Mitchell and Matthew Shiltz found themselves in the pocket last week and combined for 400 passing yards. Mitchell is listed as the starter but watch for both to potentially see action again.

No matter who’s throwing the football, they’ll be on the lookout for receiver Tim White. The veteran wideout sits second in the league with 1,157 yards and is critical to the team’s hopes of making a deep run. He’ll be well supported in the pass game by Terry Godwin and Kiondre Smith.

White admits he’s keeping an eye on the receiving yard leaderboard as he sits 65 yards behind Winnipeg’s Dalton Schoen for first, but winning is his main focus.

“I definitely track that stuff,” White told reporters. “Obviously just thankful for the opportunity, thankful to even be in that position. It’s something I look at but winning comes first. We just have to continue to execute, do what we do. When the balls in our hands, just make a play and go out there and have some fun.”

Steinauer also hasn’t been shy about feeding running back James Butler the football, doing so 25 times for 107 yards last week. With 1,049 yards on the season he’s now eclipsed 1,000 in consecutive campaigns. Not only can Butler get it done with his legs, he’s shown a knack for jumping into the pass game, amassing 480 yards through the air.

The task only gets taller for the Ticats offence this week as the Lions are sure to be fired up after surrendering 493 net yards of offence to the Bombers. They possess a deep secondary led by Adrian Greene, T.J. Lee, Quincy Mauger and Garry Peters that’s holding opposing quarterbacks and receivers to a respectable 255.8 yards a game.

It’s a defence that’s just at talented up front and one that’s known to cause issues for quarterbacks and the run game. Defensive lineman Mathieu Betts leads the league in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with four. Behind him, linebacker Ben Hladik sports 86 defensive tackles and Bo Lokombo checks in with 68.

In order to make it three straight wins, Steinauer knows his team has to bring their best effort.

“We have another test here,” Steinauer told reporters. “We‘re full speed ahead. We’ll see if we can carry some more momentum but each game carries its own set of challenges. This football team we’re playing is extremely well coached in all three phases. We know we’ll have our hands full. Both teams have a lot to play for so I’m looking forward to this challenge.”

There’s no hiding the advantage a bye to the Western Final presents and if the Lions hope to capitalize on it, they need a victory.

With the home crowd behind them, the Ticats are trying to keep pace with Montreal for the second place in the East Division.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET and can be watched on TSN/RDS in Canada or on CFL+ for International and U.S. viewers.

– with files from Ticats.ca and BCLions.com

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