B.C. Lions can’t afford late-game lapses against Alouettes in CFL East final
By Ron Sudlow
THE CANADIAN PRESS
SURREY, B.C. — The B.C. Lions better be prepared to shut down the Montreal Alouettes late in Sunday’s East Division final if they want to reach the Grey Cup game.
Finishing off teams late in the fourth quarter has been a problem for the Lions who have been tied or beaten late in three of their last four games.
And they could have another tight game Sunday with 15-3 Montreal based on this season’s form chart.
B.C. escaped with a 19-12 home win when a late Alouette touchdown was disallowed. They lost 28-24 in Montreal on a last-minute major.
“I feel we’ve let our offence down,” defensive end Ricky Foley, the West nominee for the CFL’s top Canadian, said Tuesday when asked about the late defensive collapses.
“I feel really bad about that. Somehow, some way we’ve just got to keep our composure, keep our heads straight and keep doing what we’ve been doing the whole game.”
The 8-10 Lions advanced by eliminating Hamiton 34-27 in overtime in Sunday’s East Division semifinal but only after allowing a tying touchdown and two-point convert with 22 seconds left.
It was almost the same scenario on Oct. 24 in Regina when Saskatchewan scored a TD and two-point convert with 1:53 remaining, then won in overtime.
A week later, Calgary erased a one-point deficit with a field goal with no time left.
Veteran safety Barron Miles, who led the CFL with eight interceptions, said B.C. can’t afford late-game lapses against Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo, his long-time buddy.
“But it’s the CFL, it’s the playoffs, things are going to happen late,” said Miles, who played seven seasons in Montreal.
“You’ve just got to black it out and say, hey, we’ve been through this scenario before, let’s not re-enact the same mistakes and let’s stay focused.”
Coach Wally Buono believes a lack of focus allowed Hamilton back in Sunday’s game but cornerback Korey Banks said that’s not always the case.
“I’m sure a lot of guys were focused but plays were made,” Banks said. “You could be focused but still not make the play.
“Hopefully when we play Montreal we’ll be focused to the end.”
Defensive back LaVar Glover said the B.C. secondary must communicate better, just as quarterbacks and receivers talk in the huddle about opposition weaknesses.
“You’ve got to loosen up and play relaxed,” Glover said. “If we relax out there, we’ll be all right.”
Quarterback Casey Printers, who got his first start against Saskatchewan when three other B.C. pivots suffered shoulder injuries, said the Lions have learned from the lapses.
“When you look at it, it really helped us to grow up,” Printers said. “Because of those losses we were able to come out with a victory (in Hamilton).”
Sunday’s game might not even be close if the Lions can’t contain Calvillo, the East nominee for most outstanding player.
Calvillo’s quick release allowed him to complete a CFL-leading 72 per cent of his passes for 4,639 yards and 26 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
Foley, who tied for the CFL lead with 12 sacks, said B.C. must take away the short routes for receivers like Ben Cahoon, the East nominee for top Canadian, and make Calvillo hold the ball.
“If he’s got to hold the ball, their offensive line has got to pass block differently,” Foley said.
“They’re expecting the ball to be gone in two and a half seconds. If he has to hold the ball, it gives us an edge on the outside.”
Another area the Lions must fix is the play of their injury-depleted offensive line which was flagged for several procedure violations against the Ticats.
Dean Valli, who moved to centre because of a season-ending ankle injury to Angus Reid, said it was the first time the Lions used a silent count for a complete game.
“It was also the first game where the guards were making protection calls rather than the centre,” Valli said.
“I can understand why they made these mistakes but now we’ve got 70 playoff-pressure snaps under our belt in that procedure and with another week to clean it up, I think we’re going to be that much better come Montreal.”
The Lions finished fourth in the West but are playing in the East Division as a crossover team because their record was better than that of 7-11 Winnipeg.
No crossover team has made it to the Grey Cup but that doesn’t faze Banks who expects to be playing a division rival Nov. 29 in Calgary.
“Would you call that a record?” Banks asked of crossover futility as he sat in front of his locker shuffling a deck of cards.
“Every record is meant to be broken. Hopefully it’s going to happen this week. All the odds are against us but this is Vegas, baby. Bet against the odds, you might be a millionaire the next day.”