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Not too long after BC Place first opened its doors as one of the province’s crown jewels in 1983, it quickly established itself as the best home field advantage in the CFL. Come playoff time, the cavernous venue has been known for making life a living Hell for the opposition, just ask Saskatchewan QB Kerry Joseph and his shaking hands as he was trying to avoid a time count violation in the 2006 Western Final. It’s a safe bet that through the years more than a few free agents looked back on some loud November games on Pacific Boulevard and said ” I want to be a part of that, only on the home side.”
In an era where player movement is more frequent than ever, the 2016 BC Lions roster boasts a long list of newcomers who can’t wait to join the playoff fun. A quick scan of the 46-man roster shows 16 players who were not part of the club last season and within 48 hours of this year’s free agency period opening, they had already added a few significant pieces in hopes of being able to play a home playoff game for the first time since 2012. Count running back Jeremiah Johnson as one of those who can’t wait to lock horns with Winnipeg in Sunday’s Western Semi-Final.
“It should be an all out party fest out there, man. Everyone should come out and be ready to leave that place with a sore throat, man. It’s going to be good.”
RB Jeremiah Johnson
The University of Oregon product is no doubt motivated after an ankle injury forced him to miss the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ trip to the Grey Cup last November. He was leading the CFL in rushing touchdowns when he went down on October 6th. When he officially became a free agent, the Lions topped his wish list mainly because it provided the chance to win and be at home in November. “That’s what it’s all about. When you look at the BC Lions and how great they were in the past and when you talk to guys like Geroy Simon who remind you they used to be the best and guys like Travis Lulay and Jovan Olafioye who have been there, you just want to be a part of that. I am just happy they brought me here and welcomed me with open arms. That’s what it’s all about, getting to the Grey Cup with these guys.”
Stewart has been part of a few memorable playoff games with both the Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but the Seattle native is extra pumped for his first taste of playoff action on the West Coast. Having played for Winnipeg in the 2011 Grey Cup, Stewart knows all about the home field advantage BC Place can bring.
“It’s been awhile since we had a home playoff game here and we want to take full advantage of the crowd and the opportunity we have ahead of us,” Stewart said. “I know personally BC Place can rock. I am just looking forward to seeing the crowd in full affect and seeing my teammates with smiles on their faces and full of energy.”
Edem’s only home playoff experience came last year with Hamilton, where he played with Stewart in the secondary, and the former Calgary Dinos’ standout said he could feel the excitement by watching previous Lions home playoff contests on his television. “I just remember watching the offences on the field and you can tell they have a hard time communicating because it’s so loud in there and it’s a lot of hand signals. That bodes well for the defence so we want them (the fans) to be as loud as possible.”
It perhaps provides the perfect recipe for the defence to make life miserable for Winnipeg’s Matt Nichols who makes just his second career playoff start after winning the 2014 West Semi-Final as a member of the Eskimos.
“Oh for sure, “Stewart added. “The past couple of weeks our d-line has been doing their thing and our linebackers have created a lot of sacks. In the back end we just have to cover and do our job.”
“He’s a crafty quarterback,” Edem said. “He knows how to read defences and he gets the ball out quick.”
It was a light “day one” at the Surrey Practice facility with a non-padded, one-hour walkthrough. Everyone who played on Saturday was accounted for, including Johnson and Anthony Gaitor who left the win over Saskatchewan with injuries. Stephen Adekolu once again took first team reps at wide receiver as Shawn Gore continues to deal with lingering effects from his concussion suffered on October 1st. The Lions will be in helmets and shorts for full practice on Wednesday before finishing up the practice week at BC Place from Thursday to Saturday. In order to maximize time and perhaps engage in a little team bonding, players and coaches will spend Saturday night at a downtown hotel.
Count Lions’ long snapper Mike Benson among those most relieved the Lions won’t be travelling to the Manitoba Capital this weekend. The Winnipeg native had to scrounge up 28 tickets for family and friends for the visit to Investors Group Field October 8th and you know that number would have multiplied for a playoff tilt. Benson spends his off-seasons training clients at Acceleration Performance in St. Boniface, MB. As you might expect, he has been texting back and forth with a lot of them already this week. “It’s been mostly mixed reviews,” Benson said of his friends’ takes on this weekend’s game. ” A lot of Bomber fans I know are certainly excited to have them back in the playoffs. It has been mostly playful banter. It’s fun.” The Bombers are making their first postseason appearance since the 2011 Grey Cup.
Matt Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org