B.C. Lions coach DeVone Claybrooks facing familiar foes in Calgary

CALGARY — DeVone Claybrooks says his 2018 Grey Cup ring is still in its box.

The new B.C. Lions head coach spent the previous decade in the Calgary Stampeders organization as a player, defensive line coach and defensive co-ordinator.

Claybrooks won the second of his two Grey Cup rings as a Stampeder last year.

He and other former Stamps now playing for the Lions received their 2018 rings prior to a pre-season game between the two clubs June 7 in Vancouver.

“I haven’t put it on at all,” Claybrooks said Friday. “My mom got into town in Vancouver last night and I didn’t even break it out and let her see it.

“It’s the old adage you can’t move forward if you keep looking back. It’s a great memory and it’s one we’ll talk about and cherish, but right now the focus is trying to win one in 2019.”

Claybrooks developed into a CFL head coach in Calgary under the guidance of general manager John Hufnagel and head coach Dave Dickenson.

The former defensive tackle returns to McMahon Stadium on Saturday wearing enemy colours when the Stampeders host the Lions.

“I know how Huf and Dave are,” Claybrooks said. “We’re all good friends, really good friends, and still super-close.

“I know once the ball goes out there, they want to beat the snot out of my guys and I want my guys to beat the snot out of them.”

Divisional rivals with high-priced quarterbacks are looking for their first wins of the season.

B.C.’s Mike Reilly and Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell signed four-year contracts in the off-season for $2.9 million and a reported $2.8 million respectively.

The two pivots have a combined five Grey Cup starts and three Most Outstanding Player awards in the last five years between them.

Reilly and Mitchell are the only active quarterbacks on the CFL’s all-time top-20 list in career passing yards. Mitchell is 252 yards short of a career 25,000, while Reilly has 28,098.

But the Lions dropped two in a row to open this season. Reilly was sacked seven times in last week’s 39-23 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.

“It doesn’t take a football genius or a Hall of Fame coach to understand we have to protect the quarterback and run the ball,” Claybrooks said.

A bruise under Reilly’s left eye fading to green and yellow Friday, the pivot says he’s more concerned with execution than the West Division standings.

“I’m not worried about what’s happened in the first two weeks in terms of wins and losses,” Reilly said. “I’m worried about us playing good football which we haven’t done in the first two games.”

The Lions adjusted their offensive line this week. J.S. Roy drawing into centre shifts Hunter Steward to left guard and moves David Foucault over to right tackle.

Calgary is coming off a bye week after blowing an early 12-point lead and falling 32-28 to Ottawa in its home-opener.

The defending Grey Cup champions started 13 drives in their own end in Week 1 and didn’t score.

“When you have a bigger lead, you should be able to put the game away,” Mitchell said.

“We have a unique opportunity to come off a bye week early in the season, bounce back from a loss that we don’t normally have early on.

“I think that’s important. We’ve got to prove ourselves and prove our identity as a team.”

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