Following the BC Lions’ thrilling 33-31 win over the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night, the club qualified for post season action with Saskatchewan’s loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Monday.
The Lions have now made the playoffs for a 15th consecutive season and with four games remaining on its 2011 regular season schedule they’ll look to host a home playoff game for the first time since 2007.
The run of 15 post season appearances is the team’s longest since they began play in 1954 and is tied for the fourth longest in the history of the league:
The Lions will also be looking for their 10th Grey Cup appearance, the last coming in 2006 when they defeated Montreal 25-14 for their fifth title. With the 2011 Grey Cup game set to go at BC Place the club will be attempting to play in front of home fans in a CFL championship for the fourth time (1963, 1983 & 1994).
For GM and head coach Wally Buono, it will be the 21st time in 22 seasons that he will be leading a team into the playoffs. Buono has 16 playoff wins and one victory away from second place behind Frank Clair’s total of 22.
The 2011 season marks only the second time in 54 years of CFL history (1958-2011) that a team has started off 0-5 and made such a dramatic turnaround to make the playoffs. The only other time came in a down year out west when the 1969 Lions lost their first six games and finished at just 5-11, but edged out Edmonton (5-11) and Winnipeg (3-12-1) to reach the Western Semi-Final. Prior to 1958, only Winnipeg started as slowly (0-5 in 1955) and made it into post-season play.
The Lions clinched a playoff spot after Game #14 in 2011, four weeks earlier than in 2010 and 2009 when it took until the season’s final weekend to secure a place. With four games to go, the club will also be looking to head into the playoffs with a record above .500 for the first time since 2008.
The first 2011 post-season game will the club’s 47th playoff contest and BC has an all-time record of 19-27. The Lions have reached a Divisional Final in six of the last seven seasons (five in the West, one in the East). Only a 41-38 overtime loss in Regina last year prevented a run of seven consecutive divisional title game appearances.
BC last hosted a playoff game in 2007 when they were home for their fourth-straight West Division Final. In what is an historical oddity, the Lions have only hosted a West Division Semi-Final three times, and one of those (1959) was a two-game home-and-home series. BC was the home team for Semi-Final games in 1977 and 1986.
LIONS ROSTER LOADED WITH PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE
The BC Lions roster includes a total of 15 players who have played at least four seasons in the CFL that have never been on a team that missed the playoffs: Brent Johnson (11), Angus Reid (11), Paris Jackson (9), Dante Marsh (8), Ryan Phillips (7), Jarious Jackson (7), Aaron Hunt (6), Dean Valli (6), Keron Williams (6), Anton McKenzie (6), Dan McCullough (5), Rolly Lumbala (4), Jason Arakgi (4), Ben Archibald (4), and Jesse Newman (4).
In addition to those 15 players, Geroy Simon’s teams have qualified for the post-season every year since 2000. His team missed the playoffs only in his rookie season (Winnipeg, 1999).
A LOOK AHEAD TO THE FINAL FOUR WEEKS
The win over Calgary ensured that the Lions will have at least 8 wins in a season for the 29th time in the last 33 years. The club can achieve a .500 record for the first time since 2008 and with a win in Regina next week and can match the third longest winning streak in club history at eight games.
With four weeks to play the Lions are tied at 8-6 with both Calgary and Edmonton but have won the season series against Calgary (2-1) and lead Edmonton 2-1 with the final game of the season between them at BC Place. They hold a 39-point differential over the Eskimos as well. The Lions-Esks tilt on October 29th is the only game among the three teams jockeying for West Division playoff seeding and the right to host a post season game.
Each of the three West Division teams plays two games at home and two on the road to finish up the 2011 regular season. The two East Division powerhouses will have an influence on the end result as BC, Calgary and Edmonton each have two contests against teams above .500 (BC: Edmonton, Montreal; Calgary: Montreal and Winnipeg; Edmonton: Winnipeg and BC).
If BC wins all four remaining games and stretch their winning streak to 11, they will host the West Division Final on Sunday, November 20th.