The final pre-season tune up can mean a lot of things to different players. Rookies and veterans on the bubble get one final chance to prove their worth. Those who have a roster spot locked up can use it to iron out some wrinkles before the real fun begins. And then there is the likes of Ronnie Yell.
After his 2016 season was cut short due to a freak accident in pre-game warm-ups at Toronto in August, the charismatic defensive back is itching to hit someone in green. That chance will come when your BC Lions battle the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night at BC Place Stadium.
“I’m excited to get this game going and ready to show the world what they missed last year, “ said the four-year veteran.
Now that time- and his broken foot- have healed, Yell can look back at the incident with teammate Anthony Gaitor and laugh. He admits he hasn’t ruled out making Gaitor wear a brighter jersey in pre-game warms ups, in order to avoid colliding with him again.
“I just know what drill I’m going to stay away from in warm-ups,” explained Yell with a loud chuckle.
“It was definitely a fluke accident and I just know what I can and can not do in the warm-ups.”
Other than coming out of the game healthy, a big goal for Yell and the secondary will be to limit those big plays. Especially since the first two regular season games will be against Mike Reilly and Ricky Ray. There are certainly things to work on after last week’s 23-18 loss in Calgary.
“There was a lot of rookies out there, a new system and the bullets are flying. That’s their break in game and hopefully they’ll come out this game with a little more experience and ready to get after it,” added the San Jose State alum.
“As for the vets, I am expecting us to come out there and pick up where we left off. It’s going to be a little rusty, but I am looking forward to playing with my guys.”
It should prove to be a key test for the revamped secondary. Saskatchewan is slated to dress receivers Duron Carter, Naaman Roosevelt, Bakari Grant and Nic Demski. As much as we have been praising the on paper look of the Lions’ receiving core, the Roughriders look good on paper to improve on their 5-13 record from last year.
It remains to be seen who will emerge as their starting QB, but the ageless Kevin Glenn may have the inside track. The Riders announced Vince Young is out 4-6 weeks with a torn hamstring.
Last week they played to a 25-25 tie with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in what was their first game action at new Mosaic Stadium.
For Wally Buono, this contest represents a chance to prove what the his club accomplished over the last three weeks in Kamloops.
“Those goals are in the process and the game will hopefully help us evaluate that,” said the CFL’s all-time wins leader.
“We wanted camp to be competitive and I think it was. We wanted camp to be physical and I think it was. We wanted our team to get better and I think it is. It’s going to take time before fans start to realize who those new players are going to be, but so far they have made good progress.”
For a second straight week, Buono will give Jonathon Jennings the start at quarterback and the plan is to have him play at least the first half. Jennings played only three series’ in Calgary, completing three of eight passes for 28 yards.
“We’re not treating it as an exhibition game, we want to win. Playing at home is about winning,” added Buono.
“You have to start setting the mind, not only for our own team because I think that’s critical, but also for people that come into BC Place. It’s going to be a loud place, a tough place and you want to come out with wins.”
Here are some other storylines for Friday night’s clash:
Five Players to Watch
Danny Vandervoort, WR– the 3rd overall pick in this year’s CFL Draft had a good camp, but was somewhat by some of the other young receivers. Perhaps his debut in front of the home fans will give the McMaster product a kick-start.
David Fouacult, OL– it has been a solid transition back to the Canadian game for the centrepiece of the Jovan Olafioye trade. Facing a Jones defensive scheme will prove to be another key test.
Tyler Davis, WR/KR– one of the more versatile first years in camp, Davis had a tough time returning kicks in Calgary. Look for him to play a better role in flipping the field position this time around.
Micah Awe, LB– one of the best defensive players in Kamloops will get his first taste of the home crowd. Any fans that bought a ticket should keep an eye on number 51. He has earned the right to be a key starter on this defence alongside Solomon Elimimian.
Tevin McDonald, S- the former Oakland Raider has proven to be a viable option at safety behind Steven Clarke. What he accomplishes here could go a long way in determining the makeup of this secondary.
“I told the guys to not look at it as a pre-season game. This has a lot of implications. Everybody is trying to make the team, whether you’re a first, fourth or tenth year player. At the end of the day, every time you get on the field you’re trying to do one thing, and that’s win.”
Linebacker Solomon Elimimian treating this one like a real game.
The Lions took all three regular season meetings in 2016, including a 41-18 triumph at BC Place to close things out and lock up 2nd place in the West Division.
Do you think Jennings gets a little extra fired up to face the team that once cut him? In those three meetings last season he tossed for 977 yards and eight touchdowns. Running back Anthony Allen and safety Mike Edem headline the contingent of former Lions that will suit up for gang green.
One Riders’ receiver we left out above was Chad Owens. The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” will not dress after healing from some bumps and bruises this week.
On the Lions’ injury front, defensive linemen Luther Maddy (hand) and Dylan Ainsworth (neck) are still not fit to dress. Receiver Chris Williams is out after not taking part in any contact drills in Kamloops. Kicker Swayze Waters is expected to play. His lingering thigh issue continues to get better.
This game can heard on TSN 1040 with Scott Rintoul and Giulio Caravatta with pre-game coverage set to begin at 5:00PM. Viewers can tune in on TSN 1, while those south of the border can view it on ESPN 3.
You can download the roster and depth chart for Friday’s game HERE!
Matt Baker: email@example.com