Quarterback Mike Reilly takes a snap in pre-season action against the Calgary Stampeders on June 7th at BC Place. Photo: David Friederich.
The Matchup: Regular Season Game 3
BC Lions (0-2-0) at Calgary Stampeders (0-1-0)
Saturday, June 29th
4:00 PM PT
Lions last result: a 39-23 road loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on June 21st.
Stampeders last result: a 32-28 home loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on June 15th.
Recent History: Calgary took two of three regular season meetings in 2018. The Lions’ prevailed 26-21 in the most recent matchup at McMahon Stadium on October 13th.
Vegas Line: The Stampeders are listed as 10.5 point favourites with the over/under set at 53.
No Time For Homecoming Celebrations
Another week, more- albeit a little less hype- talk about members of the organization returning to a familiar place. Head coach DeVone Claybrooks, special teams coordinator Taylor Altillio and wide receiver Lamar Durant and linebacker Maleki Harris were presented with their 2018 Grey Cup rings before the pre-season meeting with Calgary three weeks ago. For now, that will be the only reminiscing about their time with the Stampeders. When asked if he might tear up upon walking into McMahon Stadium, the head coach quickly put that notion to bed.
“You’re on probation, you’re never asking me that again,” Claybrooks chuckled to bclions.com this week.
“It’s an important game because it’s the next game. Every team has a history with other teams. It’s a nine-team league so there’s a lot of cross-players and cross-coaches that have been involved on other teams. I still have a house there and I still enjoy it and it has a special place in my heart and everything like that but I’m here in BC to win games and put a good product on the field. Somebody is going to win a game this week and we’re doing what we need to do and taking care of some steps so it should be us.”
Claybrooks spent ten seasons in Calgary: three as a player and seven as a member of the coaching staff. He collected two Grey Cup rings over that span.
Durant heads back to Calgary looking to build off the success and connection he has established with quarterback Mike Reilly in these first two games. The only Lion receiver to record a touchdown so far, the Most Valuable Canadian from last year’s Grey Cup echoed the comments of his head coach.
“There is definitely some extra excitement but yeah, I’m just trying to treat it like another game,” said the former SFU receiver.
“We just need to get a win under our belts so that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
And seeing as he used to practice against the Stamps defence every day, Durant is aware of what they’re capable of even if playmakers like Alex Singelton and Micah Johnson are no longer there.
“The guys that are filling in can definitely play too. They’re just a hardworking group. They run a similar defence to what we run so we’re used to seeing it but they added some wrinkles. It’s still early in the season. We can’t expect anything, we just have to go in there and feel it out.”
Protection The Key
To a man, members of the offensive line they admit last week’s performance will not cut it. Although not every sack is the sole responsibility of the offensive line, they know the mission must be to protect quarterback Mike Reilly after the jacked up Eskimos front sacked him seven times.
“We’re going to work harder and try to be more physical up front, ” explained Sukh Chungh.
“Practice is a little ramped up; something we needed. It’s good for us. We need to be better than we were last week and that’s the mindset going into every week. Even if we do well in the week coming, the next week we have to be better than we were the week before.”
This contest also comes with a few changes up front. With Brett Boyko out due to a lingering ankle problem, David Foucault slides over to right tackle with Hunter Steward back to his natural position of left guard. Former Eskimo Jean-Simon Roy who was signed from their practice roster prior to the regular season opener will occupy the starting centre spot.
“We’re probably going to continue to shuffle guys around until we find the best suit for us up front, but it doesn’t change the mindset up front,” Chungh added.
Added protection could also help get the ground game going. They have rushed for only 57 yards as a team through two games.
Secondary Gets All-Star Boost
The defence gets a welcome boost with the addition of Branden Dozier who arrived at the practice facility on Monday. The former Alouette and one-time East Division All-Star hasn’t look out of place in his limited practice time and can’t wait to contribute with his new club.
“Watching you guys on TV those first two games I could sense it’s still a very talented team,” Dozier told bclions.com.
“It’s definitely something I want to be a part of. I worked with coach Stubler in Montreal last season and love that I get the chance to be in his system again. So it being a talented team and a coach I’m familiar with really made it a no brainer.”
Facing Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stamps’ offence isn’t a bad test to start out with.
“At the end of the day we’re all competitors and I’m an extreme competitor. Playing against another great quarterback in this league will be a good test to see where I’m at personally.”
Dozier took reps at the safety position yet Claybrooks indicated they still weren’t sure where he would best fit in with this defence. He recorded 133 defensive tackles and five interceptions in 35 games with the Alouettes.
2019 W/L record: 0-2-0. Statistics: 36/66 for 473 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
- Reilly will look to avoid his first 0-3 start in seven seasons as a starting quarterback in the CFL. The Stampeders have been responsible for ten of his 44 losses as a starter while he hasn’t lost to any other team more than six times. Reilly did manage to win his lone playoff start against Calgary in the 2015 Western Final.
Bo Levi Mitchell:
2019 W/L record: 0-1-0. Statistics: 23/39 for 275 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
- After flirting with a couple of offers in the early hours of February 13th, Mitchell did what many expected all along and stayed with the red and white. The two-time Grey Cup champion is 7-3-0 lifetime in regular season starts against the Lions. He has never started a CFL season with two consecutive losses.
More on the Mitchell and Reilly showdown: They are the CFL’s two top passers since 2014- 23,424 and 23, 195 yards respectively- and have combined to start each of the last five Grey Cup games for the Western Division representative; Reilly in 2015 with Edmonton and Mitchell in 2014 and 2016-18. Over that span, Mitchell has a .798 winning percentage in regular season play ( 66-16-2) while Reilly sits at .628 (49-29-0).
Although Bryan Burnham was limited to just one reception last week, he has now recorded at least one in the last 67 games. He has also made a habit of showing up against the Stampeders with 37 catches for 626 yards and a pair of touchdowns in ten career meetings.
The last time Calgary started a season with two consecutive losses? You have to go back to 2009, Claybrooks’ first season there as a player. This season’s week one setback against Ottawa was the first time they dropped a home game before Labour Day since August 1st, 2014 when Kevin Glenn and the Lions rallied to beat them 25-24. 2011 was the last season Calgary dropped each of their first two home games.
These clubs will meet only once more this season and that will be the regular season finale at BC Place on Saturday, November 2nd. It marks the second consecutive year they will battle on the west coast to close out the regular season.
TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 2: oo PM PT. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta bring you the action at 4:00 PM. Viewers can watch on TSN 1 while Lions fans south of the border can stream it on ESPN+. Fans across the pond in the UK and Ireland can watch on BT Sport.