Edmonton Eskimos’ linebacker J.C. Sherritt, left, follows the play while being watched by B.C. Lions’ Rolly Lumbala during the first half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., last month. The Edmonton Eskimos take on the B.C. Lions Friday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Eskimos host Lions with first place at stake

B.C. Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono gathered his team after practice this week and told his players to treat Friday’s game against the Edmonton Eskimos like any other.

Sure, first place in the CFL’s West Division is on the line, not to mention the season series and a potential playoff tiebreaker after the Eskimos (4-0) defeated the Lions (4-1) to open the schedule, but the ever-cautious Buono didn’t want to put too much emphasis on July contest.

“Whether it’s Edmonton or whoever else you play, they’re all physical,” said Buono. ”They’re all tough.”

Eskimos head coach Jason Maas, meanwhile, went with a decidedly different approach.

“It’s 4-0 meets 4-1, it’s for first place, it’s for the season series,” Maas told reporters in Edmonton. “You live for moments like this. I told our guys at the beginning of the week, ‘You’ve put yourself in this position, so love it, own it. Make the most of this.’

“It’s not just another week. You try to say that, but we’re all human, and when the games get bigger because you’re winning, you’ve got to love that.”

B.C. fell 30-27 to Edmonton in Vancouver on June 24 in a game where the Lions stormed back from a 27-17 deficit to tie it up late, only to see Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly connect with Brandon Zylstra on a 76-yard completion in the final minute to set up Sean Whyte’s game-winning field goal.

Edmonton then beat the Montreal Alouettes by four and the Ottawa Redblacks by two before a fourth close call last week in a 31-28 road victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats where Reilly had to engineer another late scoring drive.

The Lions have also grabbed four straight victories, including last Friday’s wild 45-42 home victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where they dug themselves out of a 15-point hole in the fourth quarter.

“The league is as balanced as it’s been in many years,” said Buono. ”Edmonton’s got a very good football team. They’ve played hard. They’ve had their ups and downs in games, but they’ve always found a way to win.

“When you look at our team, we’re not that much different.”

Like their coach, B.C.’s players are trying to keep this week’s preparations on an even keel.

“It’s not the Grey Cup, even though it might feel like it,” said Lions defensive back Ronnie Yell. ”It’s not the second round of the playoffs. It’s another game. We’ve got to stay calm.”

B.C. backup quarterback Travis Lulay threw for over 400 yards for the second straight week with starter Jonathon Jennings out with a shoulder injury against Winnipeg, and will get the call again in the Alberta capital.

“Hit him early, often … get him off his rhythm a little bit,” Maas said when asked how the Eskimos will try to slow down the veteran QB. “He can make the throws. He’s not going to give up on any plays.

“He’s got a lot of weapons.”

Both teams appear ready for the first-place showdown, it’s just that one is more vocal — at least publicly — about what Friday means.

“You always want to test yourself against the best,” said Maas. ”We’re both playing really good football. There’s so much riding on this game, and I want our guys to feel that.

“Let’s own the moment and live up to it.”

Just Posted

Castor triple-murder trial resumes on Monday

Trial was delayed two weeks for two men accused of killing Castor-area family

UPDATED: Look no further than Westerner Park for renovation ideas

Red Deer Home Renovation & Design Show runs Friday to Sunday

Central Alberta real estate market reflects Alberta’s slow recovery

Real estate markets will bounce back but incoming mortgage changes don’t help, say realtor groups

Lorinda Stewart recounts bargaining for her daughter’s life in new memoir

Amanda Lindhout’s mom will speak in Red Deer on Nov. 4

Red Deer photographer captures rare spirit bears

As part of a Canada 150 project he toured some parts of Canada

Business of the Year Awards celebrate local achievement

Olymel, The Bra Lounge, 360 Fitness and Postma Electrical Services Ltd. are the winners this year

New northbound Hwy 2 lanes at Gaetz Avenue to open this Sunday

Drivers heading north through Red Deer on Hwy 2 will have a… Continue reading

Sockey Night at Saturday’s Rebels game

United Way Central Alberta is determined to provide warm feet for all… Continue reading

Canadian planet hunter seeking alien life

‘The shifting line of what is crazy’ says Toronto-born astrophysicist

All three victims identified in Fernie arena ammonia leak

Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith were from Fernie and Jason Podloski from Turner Valley, Alta

4 B.C. prisons install body scanners to combat drug smuggling

The scanners are aimed to combat the smuggling of contraband including weapons and drugs

Owner of medical marijuana dispensaries challenges constitutionality of law

The law under which the owner of two medical marijuana dispensaries was… Continue reading

Victim in fatal ammonia leak remembered for his passion and smile

Friends and colleagues remember Lloyd Smith as someone who was always willing to help people

Watch: Gravel truck turns into wrong off-ramp at Highway 2 Ponoka

The new Highway 2 and Highway 53 intersection at Ponoka caused some confusion for one driver

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month