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October 16, 2018

Win And They’re In | Lemon Ready For Some Deja Vu

Odell Willis (11), Bo Lokombo (20), Anthony Thompson (23) and Shawn Lemon (9) of the BC Lions during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC on Thursday, August 9, 2018. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

Win and we’re headed to the show. It’s that simple. With five victories in six games since Labour Day came calling, your BC Lions (8-7-0) have all the makings of a squad gearing up for a serious November playoff run. But first things first: they must officially punch their ticket to the playoff dance. A victory on Friday night over Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos (8-8-0) does just that.

As a member of last year’s Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts, Shawn Lemon knows all about the benefits of getting hot at the right time. The aggressive defensive end feels his current squad is capable of providing some deja vu.

“It’s definitely huge to get hot at the right time in the CFL because it’s such a long season,” the Lemonator said.

“Some teams peak too early and start to burn out. I feel we’re catching fire at the right time and if we get that win this week that will be a huge piece to this puzzle.” “I see a whole lot of similarities as far as guys coming together throughout the season. You’ve just got to come in, keep the momentum going, take care of what you need to take care of and you’ll be able to control your own destiny.”

Prevailing on Friday would put the struggling Eskimos on life support and officially prevent them from being able to catch the Lions by virtue of the season series: these clubs split two meetings in the first half of the season when the Edmonton looked like world beaters and the Lions were still a team in search of their identity. Now that they have found it, the rest of the league should be on notice.

Since his arrival in a July trade from the Big Smoke, Lemon has come as advertised, his ten sacks good for third overall in the CFL. He knows any success this week depends on shutting down Reilly, the league’s top passer.

“That was the key the last time we beat them,” Lemon added.

“We were able to Mike and make him feel really uncomfortable in the pocket. I would imagine that will be a big part of the game plan this time.”

Shawn Lemon sacks Eskimos QB Mike Reilly during a win over the Edmonton Eskimos on August 9th at BC Place. Photo: David Friederich

Should the Lions drag this race across the finish line and make it back to the post-season after a one-year absence, they will likely head out on the road and deal with some of the expected crazy November elements that come with playoff football in the CFL. Last week’s victory in Calgary, where no other visiting team had won this season, proved they are capable of getting it done anywhere.

“It definitely gives you a lot of confidence; going into one of the toughest stadiums to play in and getting a convincing win, that’s definitely big time for us,” Lemon explained.

As far as this week goes, Lemon and his teammates will be jacked up to play at home where they have an impressive 6-1 record this season.

“I love playing at BC Place,” Lemon stated.

“I live close to the stadium so it’s always good sleeping in my own bed, playing inside and not dealing with any weather issues.”

And the more he reflects on it, Lemon feels this squad definitely mirrors that of the one in Toronto that sipped from the Grey Cup last season.

“I see a whole lot of similarities as far as guys coming together throughout the season,” he said.

“You’ve just got to come in, keep the momentum going, take care of what you need to take care of and you’ll be able to control your own destiny.”

Buckle up. It should be a thrilling conclusion to this ride.

Home Playoff Game Still In Site

Yes, the immediate priority remains simply beating the Eskimos and nailing down a playoff berth. But the results of last week also left the door open a slight crack for Lemon and company to finish second in the West and host the Division Semi-Final at BC Place on Sunday, November 11th. Here is the updated math, as easy as we can explain it:

The Saskatchewan Roughriders currently hold down second place with a record of 10-6-0. Any chance of a top-two finish for the Lions would more than likely have to involve victories this Friday against the Eskimos and again in Saskatchewan on Saturday, October 27th. Here is where it gets a little more interesting: the Riders visit Calgary this weekend, where the Stampeders will once again attempt to lock down top spot and a bye into the Western Final.

Should Saskatchewan lose, then the Lions can possibly earn the home playoff date by finishing with a 10-8 record, beating the Riders by at least four points in the process, and finishing with a better record than both the Eskimos (8-8-0) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-9-0). In simpler terms, that would mean they either take care of Edmonton this week and drop the regular season finale to the Stampeders on November 3rd. Should the Riders get a win in Calgary, the Lions must then run the table, make sure they win by at least four in Regina and hope the Bombers drop one of their two remaining games. Winners of four straight, Matt Nichols and the Bombers have a bye this week before playing host to Calgary and finishing with a trip to Edmonton.

Get all of that? It’s called the Wild Wild West for good reason.  There is even scenario where the Lions, Bombers, Eskimos and Roughriders could finish in a four-way tie at 10-8-0. Should that happen, the Lions would finish fourth and crossover to the East, Edmonton and Saskatchewan would meet in the Western Semi-Final and the Blue Bombers would be eliminated. If the Lions and Bombers both finish 11-7-0 and Saskatchewan finishes 10-8-0, the Lions would visit Winnipeg in the playoffs with Saskatchewan crossing over to the east. Excited for the madness yet?

Remaining Schedules

Calgary Stampeders: 12-3-0, 1st in West, clinched playoff berth

Sat Oct. 20, vs. Saskatchewan, Fri. Oct. 26, at Winnipeg, Sat. Nov. 3, at BC

Scenario: Calgary would clinch top spot in the division and a bye into the Western Final with a victory OR tie against the Roughriders OR a Saskatchewan loss or tie on Oct. 27.

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 10-6-0, 2nd in West, clinched playoff berth

Sat. Oct. 20, at Calgary, Sat. Oct. 27, vs. BC

Scenario: the Riders would clinch second in the division and a home playoff game with one more victory AND one more loss by the Lions.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 9-7-0, 3rd in West

Fri. Oct. 26, at Calgary, Sat. Nov. 3, at Edmonton

Scenario: the Bombers don’t play this week, but will watch the Lions and Eskimos with a keen eye. Should they lose their final two games, Winnipeg could still miss the playoffs if the Lions and Eskimos both end up at 9-9. That would be based on their combined record against the two clubs.

BC Lions: 8-7-0, 4th in West

Fri. Oct. 19, vs. Edmonton, Sat. Oct. 27, at Saskatchewan, Sat. Nov. 3 vs. Calgary

Scenario: the Lions would clinch a playoff berth by beating Edmonton on Friday night and would still have their sites set on finishing as high as second in the ultra competitive division.

Edmonton Eskimos: 8-8-0, 5th in West

Fri. Oct. 19, at BC, Sat. Nov. 3, vs. Winnipeg

Scenario: The Eskimos can still qualify for the post-season by finishing 10-8 or 9-9. Should they lose to the Lions on Friday, they must hope the Bombers drop their decision to Calgary and then beat Winnipeg on November 3rd.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com