Injuries could hinder Ticats against Lions

The CFL’s second-leading receiver won’t be in the lineup when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats face off against the B.C. Lions on Saturday.

Brandon Banks’ groin strain is the latest in a laundry list of ailments affecting the Ticats’ (6-6) receiving squad as the team battles for a playoff position.

The Lions (5-6) have also been plagued by injuries this year and will be without their starting quarterback Travis Lulay for Saturday’s contest.

Hamilton head coach June Jones said Friday that Banks didn’t make the trip out to Vancouver, but was listed on the team’s depth chart because he’s a “game-day decision.”

“You’ve got to see who’s ready and who can play, who can go out there. We’ve had a lot of injuries … and we’re making adjustments,” he said.

Banks has tallied 1,033 receiving yards and put up seven touchdowns in 11 games for Hamilton this year, but the 30-year-old sat out last week’s match against Calgary. Hamilton lost the game 43-28.

The Tiger-Cats are also still missing receivers Jalen Saunders and Chris Williams, who both suffered potentially season-ending injuries earlier this year.

Hamilton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said his teammates are ready to step up in their absence.

“Some of the guys just keep getting better, keep getting better every day and we’ll be alright man,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of games left, a lot of opportunities to put up a lot of yards and points. So I feel like we’ll be alright.”

Masoli has tossed for 3,786 yards in 12 games this season, including 16 touchdowns, and B.C. head coach Wally Buono said controlling him will be key to the Lions’ ability to control Saturday’s game.

“He does a lot of things well. He’s strong, he runs, he keeps plays alive, he’s a running back, he’s a quarterback, he’s a scrambler,” Buono said.

“(Masoli) doesn’t seem to have a bad play or a good play phase him all that much.”

The Lions will be relying on backup Jonathon Jennings at pivot Saturday after Lulay dislocated his shoulder during the team’s 32-14 victory in Montreal last week.

Jennings’ hasn’t started since early July, but was called in last week after Lulay’s injury.

“Last game, it felt like a dress rehearsal,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s exciting to be back in. The guys are really rallying around me. I think they believe in what I can do. And I’m excited for the opportunity.”

The Ticats are ready for what Jennings will bring to the field, said Jumal Rolle.

“He’s a dual threat. So we have to be aware of his feet, knowing that he can run, he can understand plays,” said the centre back. “We want to do our best to stay on top, stay on coverage and cover as long as we can because we know Jennings can understand the play.”

The Lions’ defence has been strong recently, registering seven sacks and four interceptions during last week’s game in Montreal.

Buono said the team’s defensive staff and players are clicking and buying into the system.

“I think the defence has evolved and the evolution has caused way more pressure on the quarterback, way more turnovers. And that’s usually what you need to win football games,” he said.

Shawn Lemon said he and the other B.C. defensive linemen are just taking things one game at a time and focusing on what they do well.

The 30-year-old defensive end joined the Lions in late July, after playing the first five games of the season with the Toronto Argonauts. He’s notched 10 defensive tackles and seven sacks in six games for B.C.

“It’s just all about confidence, man,” Lemon said. “You just keep telling guys that, putting that confidence in their minds and they’ll go out there and play like that.”

Knowing that the Lions’ defence has been putting up big numbers is strong motivation for the Ticats, said Rolle.

“We pride ourselves on being the best D,” he said. “Tip of my hat to those guys, but we’re in it for the challenge this week.”

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