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67 days. As of this writing, that is the official countdown to 2019 training camp in Kamloops. The addition of quarterback Mike Reilly and several other key pieces added to the Lions roster in free agency has offseason excitement inside team headquarters reaching unprecedented levels. With the roster well on its way to being set, bclions.com takes another look at the 2019 schedule and some of the more intriguing matchups in the 66th regular season of BC Lions football. Given the amount of player movement league-wide, there will be no shortage of great matchups. Here is a look at five intriguing Lions games in 2019.
Lions fans will get their first ‘real’ look at the new-look squad assembled by GM Ed Hervey. Trivia fans: Reilly is slated to make his first home start as a BC Lion since October 26th, 2012 when he passed for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 39-16 win over his future squad, the Edmonton Eskimos. As for the present day, many CFL prognosticators have pegged the Bombers as a legitimate Grey Cup contender in 2019. Defensive end Willie Jefferson was their biggest free agent splash and will provide a good test for ex-Bomber Sukh Chungh and the rest of the Lions’ pass protection. The only other meeting between these clubs goes down on August 15th in the Manitoba capital.
Reilly’s return to the franchise he led to a Grey Cup title in 2015 was always going to be the main storyline here. But consider the fact Edmonton did a fine job re-working their roster by signing quarterback Trevor Harris, receivers Greg Ellingson and DaVaris Daniels and linebacker Larry Dean just to name a few and this could be as big a contest in week two you will see for a long time. Reilly’s return should involve a standing ovation before the coin is flipped. After that, this one could set the tone for another wild Western race in 2019. The Eskimos will visit BC Place in week five (July 11th) before another showdown at Commonwealth Stadium on October 12th.
With the Lions, Eskimos and Bombers stealing away plenty of the free agent frenzy headlines, Dave Dickenson’s Calgary Stampeders will likely be saying ‘not so fast’ to anyone suggesting they will relinquish the Western Division crown they have had a firm grip on for the past three seasons. The re-signing of QB Bo Levi Mitchell will ensure Calgary is in the discussion to defend the Grey Cup title on their home turf in late November. This one also marks head coach Devone Claybrooks’ first return to McMahon Stadium. After arriving in Calgary to finish out his playing career from 2009-11, Claybrooks spent seven years on the Stampeders’ coaching staff before being tabbed to replace Wally Buono on the west coast.
A summer visit from the Roughriders is always a highlight on the Lions’ calendar. This particular meeting is juicy on a couple of extra fronts. It marks the second game of a back-to-back situation after the teams lock horns at Mosaic Stadium exactly one week earlier. That newer venue hasn’t been kind to the Lions in two previous visits. Also, former Lions receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux landed in Regina this offseason and is slated to make the first of two visits to his old home. Led by rookie head coach Craig Dickenson, the Riders also come to town on Friday, October 18th. Other key offseason additions for the Riders include former Ottawa running back William Powell and defensive lineman Micah Johnson who was one of Calgary’s most important pieces to last year’s Grey Cup victory.
The Lions will look to make this Friday the 13th contest a scary one for ex-teammate Jonathon Jennings. The quarterback landed in our nation’s capital after a roller coaster five-year run in orange. Depending on how he fares in his quest to emerge as Ottawa’s starter, he should be motivated to play well against the squad he started 44 games for over the past four seasons. As we learn year after year, how a team plays from Labour Day onward truly reveals who they are. This begins a big stretch where the Lions play five of their remaining seven games in the friendly confines of BC Place. They were a league-best 7-2-0 on home turf in 2018.