Lions rule out Canadian LB Ben Hladik for West Final

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

The B.C. Lions will be without starting middle linebacker Ben Hladik as they prepare to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ vaunted rushing attack in the Western Final.

The Canadian standout led the Lions with 100 defensive tackles in his first full season as a starter, adding two special teams tackles, five sacks, and an interception. He was forced to exit B.C.’s Western Semi-Final victory over the Calgary Stampeders early in the first quarter after absorbing a shot to the knee from teammate Garry Peters on an interception and while the injury was not as serious as initially feared, he will be unable to go this week.

“Ben had a great year. Obviously, I was rooting for him as a Canadian kid as well,” Bombers’ running back Brady Oliveira told reporters in his availability following the depth chart announcement. “He was a stud this year so that’s definitely a key part that they’re missing on that defence.”

American Josh Woods will bump over from weakside to middle linebacker, where he racked up a career-high 11 tackles last week, while 2021 Most Outstanding Canadian winner Bo Lokombo will bump into the starting lineup. Rookie Ryder Varga is also expected to see plenty of packages, with Global linebacker Maxime Rouyer returning from an oblique injury to pick up the slack on special teams.

The defence will receive a boost from the return of starting defensive end Sione Teuhema, who sat out last week after being suspended for a punch thrown against Calgary in the regular-season finale. In 17 games this season, the second-year pass rusher recorded 37 defensive tackles, seven sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

Rookie defensive end Amir Siddiqi will be a healthy scratch, while rookie linebacker Jack Hinsperger (head/shoulder) has been placed on the one-game injured list after being knocked unconscious on a scary hit last week. Fullback Dylan St. Pierre is slated to make his CFL debut in order to pick up the slack on special teams.

The Lions (12-6) will visit the Bombers (14-4) for the Western Final on Saturday, November 11 at 6:30 p.m. EST. Winnipeg won the final two meetings between the teams this season, securing the top seed with a 34-26 victory in Week 18.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions