VANCOUVER — While the Montreal Alouettes had seven more players named to the CFL’s all-star team Wednesday than B.C., it’s another number seven that could bode well for the Lions heading into the East Division final Sunday (TSN, 11 a.m.).
Since head coach/GM Wally Buono took control of the Lions in 2003, the team has gone seven games over .500 against the Alouettes — 11-4 — including a Grey Cup win in 2006.
B.C. and Montreal split their regular-season meetings this season, with the Lions winning the first game after a late Alouettes touchdown was disallowed. Montreal returned the favour with a last-minute win one week later.
When asked about his team’s past success against Montreal Wednesday, Buono said most of the games have followed a similar pattern.
“The games are all very physical, the games are all very tight, they’re usually all very exciting and they usually go down to the wire,” Buono told reporters after practice.
Defensive end Brent Johnson, who had just six sacks in the regular season after five consecutive years with double-digits, said he and his teammates find an extra gear when they take on perennial contender Montreal.
“We get up for those games. In past years, it’s usually been we’re the best in the West and they’re the best in the East and it’s usually a big game,” said Johnson, who picked up three sacks in last week’s playoff win in Hamilton.
Johnson said one of the keys to knocking off Montreal will be stopping running back Avon Cobourne, who was one of nine Alouettes named to the CFL’s all-star squad.
“I think the best thing to do with Avon is just put Montreal in situations where running the ball really isn’t that big of an option,” he said. “If we put some points up on them and we get their backs against the wall, it will definitely be helpful.”
B.C. allowed a CFL-high 138 yards rushing per season during the regular campaign, but held Hamilton to 36 yards on seven attempts on the ground. Cobourne ran for 1,214 yards and 13 TDs this year.
Cobourne was joined on the all-star squad by Montreal teammates quarterback Anthony Calvillo, guard Scott Flory, receiver Kerry Watkins, defensive end Anwar Stewart, defensive tackle Keron Williams, linebacker Chip Cox, kick-returner Larry Taylor and kicker and punter Damon Duval.
Safety Barron Miles and defensive back Korey Banks were the lone Lions selected to the squad.
Miles, 37, was named to the all-CFL team for the seventh time after registering eight interceptions during the regular season. The picks moved Miles into a tie for second on the all-time list with 66 interceptions.
When asked Wednesday if this season might be his last, Miles, a former Alouette, didn’t offer any hints.
“I’m still playing this year. We’re talking about next year, I don’t know. I live in the moment and just take it all in, that’s all,” he said.
Banks was named to the CFL all-star squad for the third time after registering 56 tackles, five sacks and four interceptions in the regular season.
Banks, who also made the all-star team in 2005 and 2006, said it’s about time he was again recognized.
“It’s cool to be back on board. I feel like I never should have missed it, I feel like I’ve been robbed the last two years,” the 30-year-old said.
“But when you do it for so many years and you keep doing it, it will come back around. It’s an honour.”
When asked how to explain B.C.’s success against Montreal in the Buono era, Banks pointed to the team’s defensive line.
“You couldn’t stop nothing we had up front. We had the Cam Wakes, the Brent Johnsons, the Aaron Hunts, the Tyrone Williams’, the Christopher Wilsons, we matched up great because of our front four,” he said.