December 30, 2018

2018 | The Year That Was

January 4- the Lions round out their 2018 coaching staff by adding Markus Howell as receivers coach and passing game coordinator, reuniting him with new offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson. The pair were together for Edmonton’s Grey Cup championship squad in 2015 and worked in Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2017.

January 18- running back Brandon Rutley is acquired in a trade with the Montreal Alouettes. Starting the season behind Jeremiah Johnson on the depth chart, Rutley made an appearance in Ottawa on July 20th where he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

February 2- living up to his offseason mission statement of beefing up the offensive and defensive lines, general manager Ed Hervey acquires veteran defensive end Odell Willis in a trade with the Ottawa RedBlacks. This came down moments after Willis was picked up by Ottawa from the Edmonton Eskimos. Willis would record 11 sacks and 22 defensive tackles before being re-signed for 2019.

Shawn Lemon (9) and Odell Willis (11) of the BC Lions before the Eastern semi-final game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, ON on Sunday, November 11, 2018. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

February 12- quarterback Travis Lulay signs a contract for the 2018 season, his tenth as a member of the organization. Following the completion of his rehab from a torn ACL and meniscus suffered in 2017, Lulay is pressed into service as the starter for a July 14th home tilt with Winnipeg, a game the Lions prevailed 20-17. In 12 starts last season, Lulay passed for 2,494 yards and 13 touchdowns.

February 13-22- the Lions hit the free agent market hard by adding no less than 15 new faces in this ten-day span, including left tackle Joel Figueroa, defensive backs Garry Peters and Anthony Orange as well as Canadian special teams foot soldiers Mitch Barnett and Dominique Termansen. Figeuora brought some needed nastiness to the offensive line while Peters, Orange and later addition Winston Rose helped the defence lead the entire CFL with 21 interceptions.

May 3- Hervey selects seven players in the 2018 CFL Draft including offensive lineman Peter Godber (3rd overall) and defensive lineman Julien Laurent (7th overall) in the first round. The seventh overall selection was acquired in a trade with Winnipeg on the day prior to the draft. Godber, Laurent,  FB David Mackie (16th overall),  OL David Knevel (21st overall) and DB Isaiah Guzykuk-Messam (34th overall) would see game action in 2018.

May 19- the Lions report to Kamloops for 2018 training camp while also locking up Godber to a contract and bringing back veteran tackle Jovan Olafiyoe who was released by Montreal on the same day.

May 25- the line of scrimmage upgrades continue with the arrival of defensive tackle Davon Coleman from Hamilton for a sixth-round draft pick. Along with earning West Division and CFL All-Star nods, Coleman was the club’s nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player after racking up eight sacks and 57 defensive tackles in 18 regular season games.

June 16- the Lions’ 65th regular season opens with a 22-10 victory over the Montreal Alouettes at BC Place. Jonathon Jennings threw touchdown strikes to Shaq Johnson and Cory Watson, while the new-look defence sacked Montreal quarterback Drew Willy five times and held them off the scoreboard in the second half.

July 14- With Lulay starting in place of a struggling Jonathon Jennings, the Lions rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to stun the Blue Bombers 20-17 and improve to 2-2 on the young season. The defence once again held its visiting opponent to zero second half points, a shutout made possible by a couple of huge stops on 3rd and short with Winnipeg in scoring territory.

VANCOUVER, BC – JULY 14: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers play the BC Lions in their CFL game July 14, 2018 at BC Place in Vancouver, BC. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions)

July 24-  charismatic defensive end Shawn Lemon is acquired in a trade with the Toronto Argonauts. Forming the 911 duo with Willis, Lemon helped out the pass rush by recording ten sacks and 16 defensive tackles in 13 regular season games.

August 21- the club re-signs linebacker Micah Awe following his release from the New York Jets. He records 34 total tackles in seven games.

September 10- a big boost for the offence arrives as the Lions sign receiver and 2017 Grey Cup MVP DeVier Posey following his release from the Baltimore Ravens. Posey records 29 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns (more on those below) in eight games.

September 22- in what would go down as the most thrilling CFL game of the year, the Lions rally to stun Hamilton 35-32 in overtime. After the Ticats opted to punt for a single instead of putting the game away with a field goal, Jennings marched his squad down the field and hit Bryan Burnham for a major with no time on the clock. Burnham would then haul in the two-point reception, a call that was initially ruled incomplete before a review from the command centre, and Ty Long kicked the winning points to complete the stunning turn of events. The result improved the Lions to 6-6 and helped them keep pace in the Western playoff logjam with six games to go.

READ MORE: The Story Behind The Shot

September 25- In a move designed for potential playoff elements, the Lions acquire running back Tyrell Sutton and a third round pick from Montreal in exchange for a second round selection. Sutton scored two touchdowns in his debut, a big 26-21 win in Calgary, and finished with 268 rushing yards in four regular season.

October 20- a 42-32 win over the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place locks up a playoff berth for the Lions after a one-year absence from the Grey Cup tournament. In the process, Posey became the first player in modern league history to score touchdowns on three consecutive drives. A natural hat trick if you will.

October 27- Exactly one week after punching their playoff tickets, the Lions fall 35-16 in Saskatchewan. This result assured them of a fourth place finish in the West and a trip to Hamilton for the Eastern Semi-Final.

November 3- On a night where they paid tribute to head coach Wally Buono in his final home game, the Lions dropped a 26-7 decision to the Calgary Stampeders. The on-field result aside, it proved to be a memorable night of celebration for the CFL’s all-time leader in coaching victories with tributes from the likes of Marv Levy, Cameron Wake, John Hufnagel, Dave Dickenson and Pete Carroll appearing on the BC Place jumbotron.

November 6- the Lions send a league-high seven players to the West Division All-Star squad: Bryan Burnham, Davon Coleman, Otha Foster,  TJ Lee, Ty Long, Anthony Orange and Chris Rainey.

November 8- after leading the CFL in punting yards, punting average and net punting, kicker Ty Long earns the West Division nomination for CFL Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. Ottawa’s Lewis Ward winds up winning the honour during Grey Cup week in Edmonton.

November 11- the 2018 season comes to an end with a lopsided 48-8 loss to Hamilton in the Eastern Semi-Final. With that came the end of Buono’s illustrious CFL career.

December 3- five Lions are named to the CFL All-Star squad: Burnham, Coleman, Lee, Long and Orange.

December 11- DeVone Claybrooks was hired as the 26th head coach in franchise history, bringing an impressive resume both as a player and on the sidelines. The 41-year old most previously served as defensive coordinator in Calgary where his stifling defence allowed the least amount of points in a 2018 season that ended with the club hoisting the Grey Cup.

READ MORE: DeVone Claybrooks: From Martinsville To The BC Lions

December 18- Claybrooks finalizes his 2019 coaching staff. Joining holdovers Jarious Jackson (offensive coordinator) and Markus Howell (receivers) are defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Rich Stubler, special teams coordinator Taylor Altillio, defensive line coach Chris Ellis, defensive backs coach Ryan Phillips, quarterbacks coach Drew Tate, offensive line coach Bryan Chiu, running backs coach Nik Lewis and special teams/offensive assistant Keith Stokes.

READ MORE: Knocking Down Bricks: Claybrooks Finalizes Staff

December 20- the CFL releases its entire 2019 regular season schedule with the Lions kicking off the Claybrooks era on Saturday, June 15th against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Lions will play six Saturdays, two Fridays and one Thursday at home in 2019.

READ MORE: Breaking Down The 2019 Schedule   

Matt Baker: