One of the more overused CFL cliches ever muttered is “The season really doesn’t get going until after Labour Day.” Bogus, if you ask us.
Just take a look at the opportunity being presented to the 4-1-0 BC Lions ahead of a clash against the 3-2-0 Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday (4:00 pm/Save-On-Foods Field at BC Place/TSN/CBS/AM730).
This begins a five-week journey for Mathieu Betts and company which is bookended by games against the Riders while featuring three dates against each of the other Western Rivals in between. To use another cliche, it’s always a “One week at a time” mindset in these parts. But with a perfect 3-0 mark against the division thus far, this first-place Lions squad knows it has a big opportunity to really set themselves up for big things in the second half of the season.
“It’s exciting, you’re right,” said the CFL sacks leader this week.
“We reminded ourselves when we back here for day zero on Monday; you always want to win as many games as possible, so we’re going to start hopefully with his one and just try to show out on Saturday, play a good game, that’s all we can really do. We know they’re going to show up and play good, so hopefully, we come out, play good, execute and have a good game.”
Betts and this suffocating Lions defence will also be facing a short-handed Riders unit, most notably at the quarterback position where a young Mason Fine takes the place of injured Trevor Harris for at least a majority of the rest of this season. Business as usual as far as Betts is concerned.
“The game plan is pretty much the same for us all the time,” explained Betts.
“Try to stop the run early to make them one dimensional, so hopefully we limit the damage on the ground and then hopefully we get a lead and just try to get there, rush and affect the quarterback and make his life harder. We’re going to get a good Saskatchewan team. They always show out here at BC Place. We actually lost to them last year at BC Place, so yeah just play hard and hopefully, good things will follow.”
As for the offence, there is certainly plenty to be excited about following another solid performance from Vernon Adams in the 35-19 triumph over Montreal that preceded the squad’s first bye week. The quarterback will once again have all hands on deck as far as his star-studded group of receivers goes. Keon Hatcher is excited to see the unit reach its full potential.
“It’s going really good. It’s good to have everybody back; the big three 1,000 (himself, Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes), but we also have other guys stepping up and making plays for us. We’ve got a strong group. We just have to continue going out there and making plays.”
Hatcher hauled in six receptions for 68 yards in his return from injury against Montreal. Adams now boasts a record of 8-3 as Lions starter dating back to last September. He has an overall record of 25-15 as a starting pivot in the CFL with a 1-1 all-time record against the Roughriders.
4 Lions To Watch
WR Dominique Rhymes #19- held to just a pair of receptions last time out, don’t count on the league’s leader in touchdown catches to have another quiet outing. Thankfully, the Lions have game-breakers all over the field.
RB Shaun Shivers # 28– what will the explosive back have in store for an encore? We know he has at least earned an opportunity to start for a second consecutive game after scoring a major and eclipsing 100 yards from scrimmage in his pro debut against the Montreal Alouettes.
DB Manny Rugamba # 33- the bye week allowed Manny to heal from his rib injury. Look for him to make an impact at the SAM linebacker spot.
LB Bo Lokombo # 20- with 31 defensive tackles and a sack through five games, the veteran Lokombo has proven to still be a valuable piece to this elite defensive unit.
Western Swagger. A win would give the Lions a 4-0 start in games against Western Division opponents with one win each already coming against the other three rivals. The last time BC won their first four divisional matchups in a season was in 2005Dating back to July 29, 2022, the Lions are 10-3 overall against West Division clubs.
Jumping ahead is the key: in the club’s four victories this season they have trailed only once. That was in the week three victory in Winnipeg for only two minutes and 41 seconds.
Betts’ pursuit of history. With a CFL-leading nine sacks, Mathieu Betts is over halfway to Brent Johnson’s Canadian record of 17 set in 2005. Fellow Lion legend James ‘Quick’ Parker holds the all-time single-season record of 26.5 which he recorded in 1984.
Betts and the Lions’ defence has allowed a CFL-low five touchdowns on 68 total possessions by their opponents. In two home games, they have given up only one major and 19 total points.
Return man Terry Williams may be due to take one to the house. He entered this week third in the CFL with a 23.5-yard average on kickoff returns, trailing only Janarion Grant and Mario Alford.
The Riders have won five straight visits to BC Place dating back to August 2018. The Lions’ last home win over Saskatchewan was a 30-15 triumph on August 5, 2017. Current Lion Kienan LaFrance tallied a two-point convert for the Riders that night.
On the topic of LaFrance: the national is back on the roster this week in a backup and special teams role. Rugamba returns to his SAM linebacker spot after missing one game with a rib injury. Quincy Mauger slides back to starting safety.
Depth Chart Day 💪
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) July 21, 2023