BC Lions' T.J. Lee, right, grabs for the ball in the hands of Calgary Stampeders' Malik Henry during first half CFL football action in Calgary, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
The resurgent BC Lions are ready for another one of those ‘statement’ games. This latest one that could go a long way in determining how the West Division shakes out goes down on Saturday night against the 5-2 Calgary Stampeders. For Rick Campbell’s team, it’s a chance to prove their 6-1 start is no fluke; not the subject of a ‘weak’ schedule or due to the luxury of having two bye weeks before some teams even had their first.
One thing is clear: Campbell feels his team has a better mindset than the one preceding their last big measuring stick game on July 9 when they were handed their lone loss against the defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers. A little humility can go a long way.
“I was involved in that too,” said Campbell of the previous hype.
“I think we were very excited to play an undefeated team, the guys that were the champions and all that stuff. That wasn’t the reason we lost, I’m not saying that but I don’t know, I think we were a little bit too jacked up for it. CFL is a long season. We still have 11 more games and we play these guys three more times. Do we want to win this game? Hundred per cent. Are we all in? Hundred per cent. At the same time, we’ve got to have a perspective that we’re running a marathon here not a sprint.”
There is no shortage of intriguing matchups to talk about. At quarterback, you have the high-flying youngster in CFL passing-leader Nathan Rourke up against the wily veteran in Bo Levi Mitchell. Both teams also have brilliant playmakers at all skill positions. Bryan Burnham, Lucky Whitehead and company will try to exploit the likes of Titus Wall while TJ Lee and his defensive backs will look to do the same against Kamar Jorden and Reggie Begelton.
We think the juiciest matchup of all will be the Lions’ offensive line against a Calgary defensive front that has some familiar foes in Shawn Lemon, Derek Wiggan and Jonathan Rose. They are all embracing this big challenge.
“I’m excited because I know I’m going up against some good, strong opponents,” explained Kent Perkins.
“Those guys have been in the league for a long time. I know I’m going to have to study a lot of film, notice tendencies and play with great technique.”
Rourke’s accolades have been nothing short of spectacular thought seven games as the young pivot is on pace to shatter most of Doug Flutie’s single-season passing records. The offensive line play has been a big reason for that production.
“Me personally and the rest of my guys up front, we take a lot of pride in keeping him clean and doing our job the right way,” added Perkins.
And if they can escape Calgary with their fourth consecutive win, it just adds another key layer to that remarkable story being written.
“Our approach needs to be steady,” said Campbell.
“The thing our guys do is they show up and I call it practising like you mean it. Not go through the motions and coming in here to work on things, work on your craft and get better. We need to maintain that steady approach regardless of who we’re playing.”
BC Lions (6-1-0) at Calgary Stampeders (5-2-0)
Saturday, August 13
4:00 pm, McMahon Stadium
TV: TSN, ESPN+
Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 167 Canada Talks
Season Series: Saturday marks the first of three regular season meetings against Calgary. The teams will meet in a September back-to-back, at McMahon Stadium on September 17 and BC Place on September 24.
5 Lions To Watch
#25 RB- Bruce Anderson– makes his Lions debut as James Butler is on the shelf with Anderson and rib injuries. Anderson dressed in three games with the Edmonton Elks last season, primarily on special teams where he racked up 170 yards on seven kickoff returns. He previously suited up at North Dakota St. with current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance.
#19- WR Dominique Rhymes– the CFL’s leader in receiving yards and touchdown receptions, Rhymes is coming off his third multi-TD game of the young season. Let’s see how he thrives in a big divisional statement game.
#92- DL Josh Banks- the interior of that defensive line has quietly been very effective through seven games. Look for Banks and Tim Bonner to once again be a factor in the run-stopping game.
#14- DB Marcus Sayles- always versatile, Sayles was moved back and forth from safety to halfback last week and will be counted on to help lead the containment of Bo Levi Mitchell and his weapons.
Kudos to Bryan Burnham on suiting up for his 100th career game this week. What’s more impressive is the fact he’s recorded at least one reception in all of them. Burnham now sits fourth on the Lions’ all-time receiving yards list with 6,764, passing Mervyn Fernandez in last week’s win over the Elks.
Saturday marks the 200th all-time regular season meeting between the two clubs with Calgary holding a 111-83-5 all-time record.
A stat that nicely explains the Lions’ offensive resurgence: over the last seven games of 2021 the squad averaged 18.9 points per game. Over the first seven games of this season we have seen an increase of 92 per cent as Rourke and company lead the CFL with 36.3 points per contest.
Balanced offence: the Lions are also the only CFL team to have five offensive players with 30 or more targets.
Secondary shuffle: Jalon Edwards-Cooper makes his season debut at corner with Delvin Breaux (Illness) on the shelf this week. Edwards-Cooper suited up in nine games last season and recorded his first career interception against Mitchell in a week two win at Calgary. Quincy Mauger (groin) will miss his first game of the season which means Loucheiz Purifoy slides back to safety. Newcomer Manny Rugamba will come on at SAM linebacker. A 2022 training camp standout, Rugamba has NFL experience with the Cleveland Browns following his productive college tenure at Miami of Ohio.
The Stamps will be without starting running back Ka’Deem Carey for the second straight week. Replacement Dedrick Mills racked up 100 yards on the ground in last week’s win at Ottawa.
The teams will also meet in what will surely be a critical home and home series on September 17 (McMahon) and September 24 (BC Place). The 2021 Lions had their playoff dreams squashed by a pair of home losses to the Stampeders in the final six weeks of their season. At this stage, Rourke and company remain firmly in the driver’s seat in the race to host a game in November.