EDMONTON- There will be playoff football in Vancouver. The BC Lions wrapped up second place in the West and home field against Calgary in the November 6th division Semi-Final with a 31-14 takedown of the Edmonton Elks (4-14-0) on Friday night. If not for a fumble on the opening kickoff which led to the Elks’ opening touchdown, it may have been an overall perfect opening half for a hungry Lions squad. James Butler was the star on offence with a career-high 141 rushing yards while Marcus Sayles recorded a pair of interceptions for a Lions defence that slammed the door in key moments yet again. Now for some game takes.
Butler Train Rolling….. In A Big Way
The motivated Lions shrugged off the early turnover quickly and proceeded to march 71 yards on nine plays before Vernon Adams Jr. found Keon Hatcher for a seven-yard touchdown. Butler was the catalyst on the opening series, rushing five times for 39 yards and hauling in a seven-yard reception on the play before Hatcher’s touchdown.
The bruising back finished with 162 total yards from scrimmage including 21 yards through the air and has now eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for 2022 with one game to go. Early adversity was met by a quick punch right back. That’s the identity these Lions want to have as the Grey Cup tournament draws even closer. They certainly have sent a message to the rest of the league that they should be contenders come playoff time.
“I mean, I would like to think so,” said Butler after the win.
“I always felt like we kind of were stuck on our run game which is understandable. But now we can only control what we need to control. We can only do what we can like in-house. So ,we just got to continue to move forward and keep showing that we’re capable of running the ball.”
Pounding the rock will indeed be a key ingredient to team success in November. The visitors also benefited from a solid night from Adams Jr. who completed 18 of 24 passes for 211 yards, the touchdown pass and one interception. Whether or not Nathan Rourke parachutes in next week against the Blue Bombers and is a factor in the playoffs, Adams Jr. has certainly gained the respect of his teammates and coaches.
“As I say his name is ‘big-play VA.’ He’s got to give them time to get back down and make those plays. So he just continues to get better,” added Butler.
The feeling was mutual from the veteran quarterback.
“JB is a dog man and our o- line, those guys, man, they’re vicious,” said the quarterback.
“They love running that rock. We love going downhill and when our run game was going like that, the passing game is going ,I can use my feet a little bit more. We’re going to be hard to stop because I truly think that our defence is hitting on all cylinders. I think we have the best defence in the league. This team is just a complete team. We just want to keep getting better. We want to play our best football going toward the end of this year going into the playoffs.”
The dominating first half also included Butler’s touchdown run and another on short yardage from Antonio Pipkin which was aided by Sayles’ first takeaway.
Adams Jr. came in here to do a job and he has held serve, allowing the Lions to remain in the same spot he was when he inherited them: second in the West.
“A lot of reps these last weeks and just trying to just get comfortable sitting there. I’m not 100% comfortable, but I’m getting there,” added the quarterback.
This much we know. Whoever is behind centre will have a balanced offence to work with.
Homeward Bound Come November
The immediate focus will be the finale in Winnipeg and determining what kind of roster will dress. Given the significance of this victory and locking up second place, members of the organization look at it as a major accomplishment to get to play in front of their home fans.
“Yes, it’s a big deal. We needed to win these last two games and we did,” explained head coach Rick Campbell.
“And the West division is tough sledding when you’re dealing with teams like Winnipeg and Calgary and to be able to get a home playoff game, I’m really proud of the guys for sticking to it and getting the job done.
The goal is obvious is to win a playoff game. So that will be that’s what we’ll be looking to do. We have one more game in Winnipeg, and we’ll talk about that game here in the coming days as far as the plan but really proud. I’m actually I’m happy really for the fans, I thought our fans have been really great all year. And just for the community and the BC Lions fans, the players all that stuff , to get a home playoff game I think is a good deal.”
A chance to go 13-5 following an offseason of transition and uncertainty. Definitely, something to be proud of.
6- turnovers were forced by the Lions defence in this one. The two Sayles interceptions, a pair of fumble recoveries and two more on downs.
162- total yards for Butler from scrimmage.
1,054- now the CFL’ s rushing leader, Butler has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground.
75- completion percentage for Adams Jr. in this contest (18/24)
33:59- The Lions had a solid edge in time of possession.
And then there was one. The Lions will travel to Winnipeg for their final regular season contest taking place next Friday, October 28th at IG Field. Kickoff is 5:30 pm Pacific.