Crunch time is now for the 7-4-0 BC Lions. In the midst of their first two-game losing skid in 30 contests and the grip on second place in the Western Division loosening ever so slightly, it makes this Labour Day Saturday evening road tilt against the 6-4-0 Montreal Alouettes all that more intriguing (4:00 PM/TSN/RDS/CFL+/AM730).
Getting back in the win column for Garry Peters and company would accomplish a few things. Along with ensuring they don’t lose any more ground to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the race to host a playoff game, it would set them up nicely for the final third of this regular season as four of their remaining six will be at home. Going 1-0 this week would certainly erase some doubt.
“I’m excited. I mean, we had a good week of practice, a good week of prep. I’m excited to go on the road and get back in the win column,” Peters explained.
“We’ve lost the last two games; it’s been leaving a bad taste in my mouth. We’ve been taking the field really aggressively this week and practices have been even shorter because of how urgent we are about this game. I can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Looking in the mirror, they will find an equally desperate opponent. The Alouettes are coming off a turnover-filled loss in Winnipeg and also need to pile up wins in order to avoid potentially falling in the Eastern Division race.
The Lions took care of Montreal with relative ease in a week five matchup, taking them down 35-19 with Peters and the defence containing the top Alouette playmakers including quarterback Cody Fajardo, running back William Stanback and leading receiver Austin Mack.
“Every game is a different opportunity in itself,” Peters added.
“Last time there was a lot more 15 personnel, they had guys missing, and this time you see a lot of different formations, different personnel. Teams change throughout the year. There is a lot of ebbs and flows. You just have to keep watching film and learning as much as you can. And then when you get to the game and you recognize a play or recognize something you see, you take a chance. Otherwise, you just be disciplined and continue to play the defence and scheme the way the coaches drew it up.”
They have indeed responded well in practice. Now it must translate to live game action.
Trenches The Key
Forgive us if you’ve heard us say it before but keep an eye out for the battles up front. Particularly with the Lions’ offensive line against the tough Montreal front which now includes Shawn Lemon. The veteran Lemon has notched 13 tackles, four sacks, one interception and a forced fumble in five games with the Alouettes.
On the other side, Mathieu Betts and the Lions’ front will want to capitalize on a Montreal unit that has allowed the second most sacks, 37, so far this season.
4 Lions To Watch
WR Keon Hatcher #4- Another 100-plus yard performance from Hatch last week proves he has become a major difference maker in an offence filled with skilled playmakers.
DL Mathieu Betts #90– With a sack in each of his last two contests, Betts is up to 12 and within five of the Canadian record held by Brent Johnson and Jamaal Westerman. Expect Betts to have an extra boost playing in his hometown.
LB Bo Lokombo # 20- The Lions’ leader in defensive tackles has been a major piece of the defensive puzzle. Bo and the linebackers will be counted on to back up the defensive line with Stanback providing a stout Montreal running game.
DL Josh Archibald #94- Another Montrealer making the trip home, Archibald has been a major cog in the special teams wheel this season. A big hit can change the momentum at the drop of a hat.
“I spent seven years there, so it’s definitely special. I love the city, everything like that. But I just want to get a win this week. I’ve played them twice since I left already, 1-1 (record), so I just want to go there and get a win most importantly.”
Vernon Adams Jr. on making a return to Montreal.
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) September 1, 2023
As far as lineup changes go, defensive back Mike Jones is on in place of Jalon Edwards-Cooper (shoulder). Former Alouette defensive end Nick Usher will make his Lions debut with linebacker Brooks Parker coming off the roster this week. Usher was signed by the Lions in early August and suited up in 37 games over the past three seasons with Montreal where he recorded eight sacks. Alexander Hollins (knee) is listed as a game-time decision with the staff confident he will be able to suit up.
Aerial attack? This game boasts three of the CFL’s top five receivers heading into week 13 action. The Alouettes’ Austin Mack is on top with 828 yards while Hollins (791 yards) and Hatcher (764 yards) are third and fourth, respectively. Adams Jr. entered this week second in the CFL with 2,651 passing yards trailing only Calgary’s Jake Maier. The Lions’ pivot also leads the league with 36 completions of more than 20 yards, ten more than any other quarterback.
More on Hatch: his 371 yards over the last three weeks is the best three-game run by a Lions’ receiver since Manny Arceneaux in 2016 (378 yards).
This marks the first time since 2015 that the Lions will take part in the Labour Day Weekend action. The Thursday night affair that year saw the Lions intercept Montreal quarterback Tanner Marsh five times in a 25-16 victory for the visitors. These two teams met on Labour Day Weekend every year from 2006-10 and first locked horns in 1980. The Lions hold an all-time record of 7-6 in the Labour Day rivalry with Montreal.
According to CFL stats man and Lions’ historian Steve Daniel, the team with the better winning percentage has not won at all on this de facto Labour Day matchup on the last four occasions. 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015. The entire Labour Day matchup history dating back to 1980 can be found here:
Read more on the recent history in a bclions.com piece HERE.