An early theme to this remarkable 2022 Lions season has been the club’s ability to tackle momentum hard. Look no further than last week’s comeback victory in Calgary where Bryan Burnham hauled in two big third-down catches- one that went for a 54-yard touchdown- and Lucky Whitehead made a clutch play to set them up for the winning field goal late.
Momentum is a funny thing. As the 7-1 Lions look to keep their early season roll going with a second trip to Saskatchewan in less than a month, seizing momentum will be a big key to success.
Rookie defensive lineman Nathan Cherry played a big role in said momentum, forcing a third-quarter fumble that was scooped up by Ben Hladik. It may have wound up getting lost in the craziness of the comeback, but the takeaway would lead to three points and also prove that depth on the defensive side of the ball has been an underrated part of this year’s story.
“It feels great. Being out here and grinding every day, you hope to make plays like that,” said Cherry.
“That’s why you practice every day and to finally have some time to be able to put it out on the field, that feels great.”
This Lions defence certainly deserves its share of the credit. From timely turnovers to the recent habit of shutting down opponents in the second half, these are the attributes championship teams are made of. To be able to say their 2022 1st round draft pick is contributing is also an amazing luxury.
Now comes the test of facing a Saskatchewan team that looks to be getting some healthy bodies back, namely defensive linemen Pete Robertson, who is tied with teammate Anthony Lanier for the CFL lead in sacks, AC Leonard and Garrett Marino. Quarterback Cody Fajardo appears to be recovered from the knee issues he was playing with in recent weeks.
“It’s definitely a challenge. He wants to get out of the pocket, extend plays and throw it downfield,” added Cherry.
It’s about getting there with good pass rush lanes to keep inside the pocket and make throws from inside the pocket.”
“They have a lot of good players and those are good players that they get back. We’ll see how their roster ends up but regardless of who they put out there, they’re going to have to beat them,” added head coach Rick Campbell.
Cherry, fellow defensive lineman Riley Pickett and offensive lineman Noah Zerr represent a trio of Saskatchewan Huskies making a return home of sorts. Cherry and Pickett played in the win at Saskatchewan three weeks ago while Zerr dresses for his first professional contest. Cherry is glad to have gotten the first trip home out of the way and to be able to focus more on the football side of things in this very important division matchup.
“It’s going to be a little less sentimental,” laughed the former Canada West All-Star.
“Pure business. I’ve seen everyone, seen the stadium now as a pro. It’s just straight business and I’m excited to go in there and get another win.”
BC Lions (7-1-0) at Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-4-0)
Friday, August 19
7:00 pm, Mosaic Stadium
TV: TSN, ESPN2
Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 167 Canada Talks
Season Series: The teams will meet again next week at BC Place in the third and final regular season meeting of 2022. Nathan Rourke passed for 336 yards and two touchdowns as the Lions prevailed 32-17 in Regina back on July 29.
3 Lions To Watch
#46 LB- Ben Hladik- since Bo Lokombo went down due to injury, the UBC product has filled in admirably at linebacker. Hladik’s fumble recovery led to three key second-half points in the big comeback in Calgary last week.
#6 DB- TJ Lee- has not slowed down one bit after surpassing the 100-game mark for his brilliant career. Lee and the defensive backs will get a nice test against Duke Williams and the Saskatchewan attack.
#19 WR- Dominique Rhymes- the club’s receiving leader has been Burnham-Esque with his playmaking abilities. What will he have in store for us this week?
Rourke’s 2,908 passing yards are the highest in an eight-game stretch since Matt Dunigan in 1994 ( 3,032 yards). Rourke just surpassed the previous eight-game totals set by Michael Reilly in 2016 (2,843 yards) and Ricky Ray in 2005 (2,802 yards). Rourke is also 735 yards shy of the single-season record for a Canadian held by Russ Jackson at 3,641 yards in 1969.
Rhymes, Lucky Whitehead and Keon Hatcher are all on pace to surpass 1,300 receiving yards this season. No team in CFL history has ever had three go over 1,300 yards all in one year.
More impressive figures for this Lions defence: they have allowed the fewest 1st downs (141), fewest opponent net offence (280.1 average) and fewest yards per play (5.7). Their 175 points allowed (21.9 per game) is ranked second in the CFL behind Winnipeg (18.2 points per game).
American Shane Wynn makes his CFL debut and will aim to provide a spark to a return game that must find more consistency. The Indiana product was added to the practice squad in July and had a few NFL stops including a stint on the active roster in Jacksonville in 2018. James Butler is back in at tailback after missing one game due to an ankle problem and Delvin Breaux Sr. returns to the secondary. WR/KR Shai Ross, RB Bruce Anderson, DB Jalon Edwards-Cooper and DL Sione Teuhema (shoulder) come off the roster this week.
Friday marks the 200th regular season meeting between these two clubs with the Roughriders holding a 103-92-4 all-time edge.