June 28, 2022

Game Preview | Lions At REDBLACKS

B.C. Lions' Boseko Lokombo (20) dives to score a touchdown in front of Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dominique Davis (4) after intercepting a pass during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Saturday, September 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

They have put the rest of the league on notice with two near-perfect outings to start their season. Now comes somewhat of a litmus test for Nathan Rourke and the 2-0 BC Lions as they invade the nation’s capital for a Thursday night tilt against the 0-2 Ottawa REDBLACKS. A short week, long flight and a first real glimpse of the injury bug are all staring them in the face as they look to remain perfect on the young campaign. Bring it on, says the two-time CFL Top Performer of the Week.

“It’s not ideal,” admits Rourke after having only two days of real prep for this contest.

“But great teams find a way to do it. We want to prove we are a great team and this is a great opportunity to do so.”

On paper, it might seem like Rourke and company should be the heavy favourites. When you really take a deep dive into the matchup, you will see an Ottawa squad that played the two-time defending Grey Cup champions very tough, losing both matchups by a combined total of nine points.

“A team that doesn’t reflect their record,” explains Rourke.

“They’re a very very good team, they’re well-coached, have guys who have won a lot of games and we’re going to have our hands full. They’re a very good team but this is what we want. These are the type of situations you want to be in and we’re looking forward to it.”

“They’re a good football team,” added head coach Rick Campbell.

“They’ve played a bit different from last year with all of their free agent signings. The thing we’ve got to concern ourselves with at the end of the day is going out there and playing the best football we can play. When we do that we think we’ve always got a good chance to win and that’s what we’ll be aiming for on Thursday.”

It will indeed be a nice test for this stout Lions defence against quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and a REDBLACKS offence that includes fellow addition Darwin Adams. Masoli is right behind Rourke with 711 passing yards in two contests.

As for the Lions’ injury situation, newcomer Josh Pearson takes the spot of Bryan Burnham. A member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl-winning team in 2020, Pearson showed well in training camp and will now get the chance to prove he can stick in this offence. Number 12 feels the unit is well-positioned to keep winning with Burnham on the sidelines for at least the next couple of weeks.

“It’s going to be tricky on a short week, but I’ve got full confidence in Rhymes, full confidence in Hatch, Cottoy and Josh. He’s had a great camp and shown a lot of progress so I’m excited to see him go out there and ball,” added Rourke.

So what does number 12 have in store for round three? After 718 passing yards, a completion percentage bordering 90 per cent and a league-leading seven touchdown passes the goal remains simple for the even-keeled quarterback. As you can imagine he isn’t interested in tacking on more yards to his single-game Canadian passing mark.

“We’re going to go for a win,” he said.

Running back James Butler cleared concussion protocol this week while linebacker Bo Lokombo is also on track to start. Lokombo is officially listed as questionable.

The Matchup

BC Lions (2-0-0) at Ottawa REDBLACKS (0-2-0)


4:30 pm, TD Place


Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 147 Canada Talks

Season Series: The teams will meet once again on September 30 at BC Place



3 Lions To Watch

#89- WR Josh Pearson– The lanky, athletic receiver gets his shot in this offence after showing out well for much of training camp. We shall see how much chemistry Rourke can establish with #89 early on.

#48- DL Tibo Debaillie- Perhaps one of the more underrated members of this defence that has put up some impressive credentials through two games. The native Belgian has been a force in the run-stopping game while keeping blockers away from those trying to get to the opposing quarterback.

#0- Loucheiz Purifoy- As co-GM Neil McEvoy stated in his appearance with Donnie and Dhali earlier this week, Purifoy is just a “solid football player who doesn’t have to say much.” Louch has played admirably at the nickel position, allowing the defensive schemes to feature guys at their regular spots in the secondary.

Extra Yardage

Rourke and the offence have scored 12 touchdowns in 23 offensive drives, a rate of 52 percent. They did not have one two-and-out in the win over Toronto last week.

The Lions are in the midst of a nice little streak against the REDBLACKS, winning the last five meetings dating back to September of 2018. The Leos also hold an all-time edge of 9-5-0 in regular season meetings.

As for all-time meetings with Ottawa franchises dating back to 1954, the Lions hold an all-time advantage of 48-23-2. The .671 Lions winning percentage is higher than that of any other opponent.

The Lions’ ferocious defence has not allowed any fourth-quarter points through two games this season.

Another impressive feat courtesy Lions historian Steve Daniel: the Lions are the first team to win back-to-back games by 40 or more points since the 1999 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. That Ticats squad led by Danny McManus and Darren Flutie went on to sip from the Grey Cup.

Another REDBLACK to watch receiver Jaelon Acklin leads the CFL with 110 yards per game.

Matt Baker: