Season suddenly gets serious for Lions

You do know what happens next for the B.C. Lions, right?

There’s only one logical next step for the CFL team which isn’t having much luck when it comes to facing great quarterbacks. Consider.

In their first home game this month, they face Zach Collaros coming back off knee surgery. Then it’s Bo Levi Mitchell cutting them to shreds.

When they face the Ottawa Redblacks tonight, the Lions get Trevor Harris and his gaudy passing stats for the first time since he went down. Next week, it’s Ricky Ray in his first game off injury for the Toronto Argonauts.

Would anybody be surprised that when the Leos next return home to face the Montreal Alouettes it’s not Kevin Glenn behind centre but the triumphant return to the field of offensive coordinator Anthony Calvillo?

Yes, it truly is a series of unfortunate events for the Lions. But it only serves to illustrate the dicey spot this team find itself these days, and the fact no matter how well they played through the first seven weeks of the season, much more needs to be done.

A quick look at the schedule reveals the frightening prospect for the Lions that without at least a split on their current two-game roadie they likely will find themselves out of a playoff position.

At 5-3, they are only a game up on 4-4 Winnipeg and Edmonton, which has the same record and starting to play rather well. Edmonton has a bit tougher schedule, with back-to-back games with Calgary but not before they get to beat up on 1-7 Saskatchewan Friday.

Matt Nichols and Winnipeg is in Montreal Friday, then gets two games against the roster-challenged Riders. And a loss by the Lions to Toronto Wednesday, coupled with a setback in Ottawa tonight, would draw the Argos even in the crossover standings, which would give the home team an edge.

If the Lions’ loss to Calgary wasn’t enough of a wake-up call, the reality facing them without a prompt turnaround might well do the trick. All week leading up to the first-place showdown against the Stampeders, both Wally Buono and his players tried to downplay the hype surrounding the matchup, suggesting they were seeking consistency. It didn’t work.

“It’s a lesson for us,” said Solomon Elimimian (above), whose season-high 11 tackles against Calgary was easily overlooked on a night when so much else went wrong. “We have come out with the same focus and intensity, whether it’s versus the number-one team or the team last-place team in the league.”

Elimimian will be surrounded by yet another new face in the Lions defence as they attempt to corral Harris, but will get another starter back tonight. Mich’ael Brooks returns after being out three games, though the Lions will also dress Bryant Turner as insurance.

Offensively, the Lions turn to Anthony Allen at tailback as the revolving door at the position swings open after Jeremiah Johnson had a three-game stint.

In the secondary, however, rookie Anthony Gaitor gets his second start of the season at short-side halfback alongside cornerback Ronnie Yell, who’ll have to work on his timing with a third partner this season when it was confirmed Steven Clarke is lost for the rest of the season.

“(Clarke) is a huge loss for us, because not only was he an exceptional defensive player but because of what he did on special teams as well,” said Yell.

No more lamenting the departed, however. The standings, not to mention the looming lineup of returning star quarterbacks, provide ample illustration of the Lions’ suddenly serious predicament.



Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.