VANCOUVER — The B.C. Lions know what’s at stake this week — win and the team’s faint playoff hopes glimmer on, lose and they’ll officially be snuffed out.
“I don’t have to be a salesman on this one, I can tell them the truth,” head coach Rick Campbell said of his message to the squad. “The truth is that if we beat Calgary, Friday night, we hold the tiebreaker and then it comes down to the last week of the season. So it’s not fully in our control but we can put ourselves in the best situation we can and then make them earn it.”
Capturing a victory won’t be easy, though. The Lions (4-8) are on a six-game losing skid as they prepare to host the Calgary Stampeders (6-6).
B.C. is coming off a frustrating 26-18 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last week and has given up the most points (308) in the West Division this season.
“I won’t lie to you — losing does take a toll when you’ve lost as much as we have lately. And it takes a little longer to get over it,” Campbell said. “It took a couple days this time for guys to kind of get out of the funk, but they did.”
Despite the results, the team bounced back and returned to work this week, Campbell said, and will be ready to face a well-rested Stamps team that’s coming off a bye week.
The two sides have already met twice this season, with B.C. taking a 15-9 win in Calgary in Week 2 and the Stamps responding with a 39-10 victory in Vancouver in Week 11.
Calgary punctuated the win with a series of big plays, including a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown by running back Roc Thomas coming out of half time.
“Those type of things are major momentum swings in the game and we need to be the guys making some of those plays like we were earlier in the year where it swings not only the score but the momentum and all that,” Campbell said.
Lions quarterback Michael Reilly was 13-of-25 passing for 145 yards with two interceptions in the loss, and called the game “one of my more poor performances.”
But the veteran is confident heading into this week’s rematch, noting the Lions have already topped the Stamps once this year.
“Their defence is playing good football and they’re a challenging team to beat, but they’re not a team that we haven’t beat yet,” Reilly said.
“We’ve finished a game on the better side of the scoreboard than them once already this year so we’re certainly capable of doing that again. But if the last time we played them showed us anything, it’s that it’s not just going to happen. We’ve got to show up and actually play well.”
Calgary will be motivated too, knowing that a win or a tie will secure a spot in the playoffs.
It’s an enticing prospect after starting the season 1-4, said defensive lineman Derek Wiggan.
“I’m not going to lie, it was looking a little bleak,” he said. “Me being here six, seven years, this is a position I’ve never been in, earlier in the season. But now this is more customary, we control our destiny. So now it’s just win. It’s an easy thing. Just win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. We’ve just got to get it done.”
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (6-6) AT B.C. LIONS (4-8)
Friday, B.C. Place
TOUGH TICKET: The Lions haven’t fared well at home this season, going 1-4 at B.C. Place. The group has struggled against western teams, too, with a Week 2 win over Calgary standing as the lone victory in a 1-6 record against divisional opponents.
LOOKING BACK: B.C. hasn’t missed the playoffs two seasons in a row since 1990.
ROCKIN’ ROOKIE: Lions linebacker Jordan Williams leads the league in total tackles with 84. His 81 defensive tackles this season set a new record for a Canadian rookie, topping the 75 Michael O’Shea recorded with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1993.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press