August 24, 2023

Game Preview | Lions vs. Tiger-Cats

Photo Credit: Steven Chang, BC Lions

Back home in their fortress that is Save-On-Foods Field at BC Place, Saturday represents another bounce-back opportunity for the 7-3-0 BC Lions as they entertain the 3-6-0 Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4:00 pm/TSN/CFL+/AM730).

There are indeed plenty of ups and downs over the course of a typical CFL season. That’s what Jalon Edwards-Cooper and company are being reminded off after recent defeats in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg that have dropped them into second place in the Western Division. The good news? They still know what type of team they are.

“Just locking back in and doing the same things we were doing the first couple of weeks,” explained Edwards-Cooper on what needs to improve.

“We’re the same team, it’s just we have to be more detailed. That’s it. Being more detailed and focussing on us.”

As for Hamilton: this week’s opponent may be struggling in the standings and relying on a young quarterback in Taylor Powell to get them out of a rut. But if last week’s setback in Saskatchewan was any indication, this Lions squad knows it can expect a full battle for 60 minutes.

“The thing when you watch film in this league is every team is capable,” said head coach Rick Campbell.

“Obviously, there are some teams that don’t have the record they want but there is no bad team where you throw on the film and say ‘these guys just don’t look good’ or ‘they don’t have good players.’ That’s just not the case. So, you’ve really got to play well to beat people.”

Said Edwards-Cooper of playing against another young quarterback in Powell:

“He’s a young dude, we want to try to give him things he hasn’t seen before and make plays.”

Through four home games, this ferocious BC Lions defence has remarkably given up only one touchdown in 59 total possessions. The lone major allowed came back in a week four victory over Montreal.

Photo Credit: Steven Chang, BC Lions

The Butler Did It

One area where the Tiger-Cats have been in good hands is the backfield where former Lion James Butler is on pace for another 1,000-yard rushing campaign and has chipped in with five touchdowns on the ground. The Lions defence, always dominant at home, will want to limit his production and force Powell to try and beat them.

“You know how JB is going to want to come in and run the ball,” explained Gerry Peters.

“They’ve got a lot of good weapons around their quarterback. We’re not going to take them lightly. It’s a big challenge for us this week. We want to come out and make another statement. We don’t want to put two losses on the board, back-to-back. For us, it’s a big week, everybody’s locked in and we’re looking forward to getting in the W column.”

“He looks like James Butler to me, ” added Campbell.

“We liked him here for a reason and he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat and always seems to get yards after contact. Glad to see he’s doing well but obviously don’t want him to do too well on Saturday.”

Photo Credit: Paul Yates, BC Lions

Lineup Notes

The squad gets a couple of key pieces back in the trenches as Jarell Broxton returns to left tackle after missing last week with a hamstring injury. On defence, Woody Baron returns to the interior while 2023 first-round pick Francis Bemiy makes his Canadian Football League debut. His insertion comes after it was announced Nathan Cherry will be out for the season with an ACL injury suffered in the loss to Saskatchewan.

Broxton and the offensive line will be anxious to turn the tide and allow Vernon Adams Jr. the time to utilize all of his key playmakers.

4 Lions To Watch

QB Vernon Adams Jr. #3– coming off a season-high 455 passing yards, Adams did not miss a single practice rep. this week and will look to exploit Hamilton’s defence early in this contest.

WR Jevon Cottoy #86– while other members of this star-studded receiving corps. are putting up big numbers, Cottoy has been a valuable piece in the protection game and still relied upon to pick up tough yards when needed.

DB Garry Peters # 1– the veteran continues to produce at a high level as he and the defence aim for a bounce-back night against Powell and company.

DL Woody Baron #58- the interior stopper was missed in Saskatchewan. Plugging those holes and forcing the Ticats into second and long will be a big key to victory this week.

Photo Credit: Steven Chang, BC Lions.

Extra Yardage

This marks the 100th all-time meeting between the Lions and Tiger-Cats since inter-divisional play began in 1961. The Lions hold a 56-40-3 all-time edge.

Along with the home defensive dominance, the Lions have won six straight games at BC Place dating back to last season.

After not registering one for four games, Mathieu Betts picked up sack number 11 in Saskatchewan. He remains on pace to break Brent Johnson’s Canadian record of 17 set in 2005.

Milestone watches: Rick Campbell’s next win gives him 25 with the Lions, which would tie him with Eagle Keys for 7th on the club list. TJ Lee needs one more interception to hit 25, tying Ken Hinton and Eric Carter for the 10th-highest amongst all-time Lions. And how about Sean Whyte? Mr. Automatic enters this one tied with Trevor Kennerd for 11th on the CFL’s all-time scoring list (1,840 points).

With 50 defensive tackles, Ben Hladik is on pace to break former teammate Jordan Williams’ Canadian record of 81 set in the 2021 campaign.

Bouncing back: The Lions have fared well coming off losses as of late, dropping back-to-back games just once over their last 29 contests.

Alexander Hollins’ career-high of 161 yards last week was also the first time he went over 100 in his bright young career. Hollins entered this week second in CFL receiving with 715 yards, trailing only Montreal’s Austin Mack (773 yards).

Over the last two games, Hollins and Keon Hatcher have a combined  29 receptions for 505 yards and four touchdowns. The 505 total is 65 per cent of the Lions’ passing yards.

This marks the first meeting between these two clubs since week six of the 2022 season where the Lions prevailed in a 17-12 nailbiter at BC Place. They will meet again in week 18 on Friday, October 14 at Tim Hortons Field.

Matt Baker: