Photo Credit: Jaclyn McKee
It was a heavyweight battle between two stout fighters. And the BC Lions prevailed behind a balanced offence and a couple of timely turnovers on the defensive side as the end result was a 30-16 win over the Calgary Stampeders to move one step closer to a spot in the Grey Cup. It will now go down next Sunday, November 13 in the Western Final at Winnipeg, the Lions’ first appearance in the division final since 2016. Now for some game takes from Matt Baker.
Rourke Was Just Fine, Thank You
He was sacked four times, hit hard a few others and was hobbling at various points in the contest. Yet all that will be remembered about Nathan Rourke’s playoff debut was his perseverance in willing the offence to a win.
Rourke finished 22/30 for 321 yards and two touchdowns; the first to Alexander Hollins to put them ahead 13-6 before halftime and another to Bryan Burnham to all but put it away in the late stages. Not bad considering everything he came back from and the few doubters who were lingering after his limited performance in Winnipeg last week.
“It feels like I played a full game,” said Rourke following the victory.
His foot was taped up at halftime yet he only proceeded to joke about that with Three Down Nation’s JC Abbott about “looking good and playing good.”
That’s what everyone loves about Rourke, his calm and cool demeanour. As for the performance, he knows he could have made more plays. But that’s just the perfectionist in him.
“Yeah, obviously there was a little bit more on this game, but it felt good to be back and playing again and that’s kind of how I viewed it. I didn’t think it was anything special, even though it is. In terms of patience, it was just trusting the o-line that they’re going to give me enough time to go through the reads and everything and then it’s trusting Jordan (Maksymic) that he knows that he’s doing when he’s putting the game plan together, trusting receivers that they’re going to get to the right spot. And that’s what football is all about. That’s what makes it it’s a great team sport.”
The love was mutual from Keon Hatcher, who led all Lions with 162 receiving yards and caught a crucial touchdown on a throw from Antonio Pipkin when the Lions were gambling on a third down late in the third quarter. That one really got the crowd going.
“Man, I can just say Nate is different. He’s a different human,” Hatcher said.
“The way he carries himself, the way he handles his business. I have nothing but respect for him. He out there fighting for us, man. He’s out there standing there for us. Just like JB (James Butler), he got twisted up during the game. He came back out there and I knew that was for us. You know, we do this together. As I said earlier. And I mean, that’s all I could say it was out there for us tonight and I definitely appreciate it.”
Butler did indeed tweak an ankle in the first half but stayed in and finished with 95 yards on 20 carries. That’s what playoff football is all about.”
What About That Calgary Attack?
The entire Lions defensive unit deserves a game ball for holding the Stampeders vaunted running game in check. CFL rushing leader Ka’Deem Carey had just 43 yards on eight carries. Quarterback Jake Maier was a pedestrian 12/22 for 138 yards before being pulled in favour of Bo Levi Mitchell in the fourth quarter. It was Mitchell who engineered Calgary’s lone touchdown drive when it was too late.
Ryan Phillips’ unit also set a tone early with a big third down stop when Bo Lokombo brought down Malik Henry with the score tied 3-3 in the first quarter and another with the score 13-6 in the second half when Maier first tried to draw the Lions offside and then floated an incomplete pass. Both of those calls were made instead of field goal attempts. Do the math and it could have been a much closer game in the late stages.
“You can point to a few plays in the game that were big momentum swings and I think that’s the deal of rising to the occasion when it’s needed,” Rick Campbell said.
“Our guys sure have had a tendency this year; we’re not perfect and we don’t want to be perfect, we’re actually humans. We just talk about battling and keep doing their thing and I’m happy we were able to respond when we needed to.”
Complimentary football. Gotta love it.
83- The rushing total for Calgary. No doubt a huge win for the stout defence of British Columbia.
2– Sacks for the Lions, one for Mathieu Betts and another for David Menard. Significant stats considering the Lions failed to register one in three regular season meetings.
3/28- the Lions took only three penalties for 28 yards while Calgary had eight total infractions for 83 yards. A big key to victory.
478- total offence for Rourke and the Lions in an all-around balanced effort.
33:17– Rourke and the Lions owned the time of possession.
Props to the great Lions fans. 30,114 was the announced attendance on Sunday and it made a huge difference.
Come on down to Winnipeg. The Lions and Blue Bombers will clash at IG Field in the Western Final next Sunday at 1:30 pm PT. Winnipeg took two of three regular season meetings.