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October 1, 2019

Lemon Drops Reaching Higher Gear

Shawn Lemon (9) of the BC Lions during the CFL game between the Ottawa RedBlacks and the BC Lions at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

Shawn Lemon is playing like a man on a mission. And with his old squad, the Toronto Argonauts, in town this week, we expect him to reach an even higher gear as the Lions aim to close out the regular season with as many wins as they can.

“I’m definitely excited about playing an old team of mine but I’m mainly excited that we’re still in the playoff race and have the opportunity to get another win that will hopefully keep us in that race,” said Lemon.

He is all business in his approach to this contest. Still, that won’t stop him from exchanging some friendly jabs with a few of his old teammates before Saturday.

“I’ve talked to James Wilder Jr., Alden Darby, Freddie Bishop and Frank Beltre, that’s about it,” chuckled Lemon.

“We talk football and also about what’s going on in life. With those guys, there is more to our friendships than just the game. You don’t want to talk too much about the game on weeks you play them because you don’t want to reveal too much about what you’re doing.”

Over the last 14 months, the aggressive defensive end has racked up both the Lemon Drops and Air Miles. After the Argos shipped him to BC last July, Lemon’s play on the defensive line played a big role in the Lions’ second half rally that saw them earn a playoff birth in 2018. But football being the tough business that it is, he found himself back in Toronto once free agency hit in February and struggled to find his game. Ironically, his only sack with the Argos this season came in a loss to the Lions at BMO Field on July 6th.

Shawn Lemon shares a laugh with Odell Willis and Mike Reilly during a victory in Ottawa on September 21st/2019. Photo: Marc Bourget/Roch Lambert.

Indeed, it’s funny how a change in scenery can bring good things. Since being re-acquired in a trade from the Boatmen on August 12th, Lemon has recorded eight sacks and a forced fumble in six games. A September 6th loss in Montreal was the only game since the trade where he failed to register a quarterback takedown. He had two more in Saturday’s defensive stand of a victory against Montreal, bringing his career sack total to 70. It didn’t take him long to come up with an answer for why he has re-discovered his game.

“I think it’s just being around a group of guys I enjoy playing with,” explained the pride of Waldorf, Maryland.

“We complement each other well. Playing for coach Claybrooks, coach Stubler and (defensive line) coach Ellis has made my job a lot easier as far as game-planning.”

Seeing his buddy Odell Willis get to 100 sacks last week has given him even more motivation to keep racking them up.

“It’s funny, this time last year we were talking about me getting to 60. I’m thankful to be adding to that total. Odell and I had talked for awhile about him getting to 100 and me closing that gap and getting there a lot faster than he did (laughs). So that’s definitely a lot of motivation.”

Lemon credits his work ethic and skills on the football field to growing up with three older brothers in Waldorf. After four solid years at the University of Akron- where he posted seven sacks in his senior season- his defensive line coach Derrick Jackson recommended him to a contact in Winnipeg. Lemon then wound up in Saskatchewan where he suited up in only one game in 2011 before a brief bouncing around in the Arena Football League. He migrated back north to Edmonton in 2012 and then landed in Calgary the following season where his position coach was none other than DeVone Claybrooks. The pair won a Grey Cup together in 2014.

Shawn Lemon (9) of the BC Lions during the CFL game between the Ottawa RedBlacks and the BC Lions at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

Along with his own stats, you also have to take a look at Lemon’s overall impact on the defence. Before his return, they simply weren’t getting enough pressure on the opposing quarterback. The emergence of Jonathan Newsome at the quick end position has allowed them to move Willis inside next to David Menard. The defence also allowed only 35 points over the course of this current three-game winning streak.

It may be too little, too late when it comes to being in the Grey Cup discussion for 2019. At the very least, they have some momentum to build on for next year and the spirits remain mighty high as they look to stay mathematically alive in the playoff race for as long as they can.

“That fight, that work ethic we have just starts from the top,” said Lemon.

“We have a good head coach who is going to come in and set the mindset for us as a team and we just come out every day and compete hard in practice. That brings out the best in us.”

And as long as he has Odell with him, the motivation won’t go away anytime soon.

“We both plan on playing for a long time. They’re going to have to bring us to games in our wheelchairs,” laughed Lemon.

He won’t need one when he battles his old Argonaut friends this week. Oh, and did we mention he’s going to be mic’d up?

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com