Western Supremacy on the line
Three weeks into the season and we have a battle for top spot in the West as the BC Lions head to the road and take on Saskatchewan in a showdown of undefeated ball clubs.
It’s time to separate the contenders from the pretenders in a classic CFL rivalry.
The upstart Riders are looking to gain a signature victory and hope to do so over the red-hot Lions.
Surprising to everyone outside of Regina, the Roughriders are 2-0 with victories over Hamilton and Edmonton. Someone’s early season streak will be snapped and the victor will sit atop the Western Division.
Lions go green in this week’s installment of the Top Shelf Keys to the game.
Shawn Gore suffered an injury during his two touchdown performance against the Ti-Cats, leaving him probable this week. Slotting in for him will be Marco Ianuzzi.
Not only will the offense have to adjust with different personnel, they will have to adjust to playing outdoors for the first time this season.
We all know about Lions pivot Travis Lulay and the fantastic run he’s been on but let’s not overlook Sasky’s Darian Durant. He’s already passed for almost 600 yards, and is one the CFL leading passers.
Durant brings with him a few top-notch receivers in Weston Dressler and Christ Getzlaf.
With home field advantage look for Durant to post numbers equal to Lulay. If the Lion’s D can get to Durant he is prone to give up the football.
Defensive Line Pressure
But not just from the Orange and Black. In one of the major off-season moves the Riders brought in last year’s sack leader, Odell Willis, from Winnipeg. Odell will look to avenge his Grey Cup loss and harass Lulay from the onset.
And Willis has a little help from his friends, the green machine loves to get after QB’s.
Harris will look to keep the Lions rushing game going strong this week against a defence that is suspect in run defence. Last week’s performance garnered Harris with Canadian of the Week honours and he stands atop the league in rush yards.
The talk now is Harris becoming the first CFL back to go over a 1,000 in both rushing and receiving yards.
This is obviously BC’s first test away from the Lion’s Den, but the distance travelled is only half the battle. Taylor Field or Mosaic Stadium or whatever it is this year, is the most hostile environment in the landscape of the CFL. Rider fans are loud, passionate, nasty and relentless.
These guys get a kick out of wearing watermelons on their heads for Pete’s sake.
Coach Mike Benevides piped in crowd noise at Lions practices this week in preparation.
After a heated training camp battle Adam Bighill won the starting middle Linebacker spot from James Yurichuk. Last week he recorded 9 tackles and a sack earning him Defensive Player of the Week honours.
In a secondary loaded with talent, rookie Bell proved worthy enough to hold onto a roster spot and now we’ll get to see him in action.
Riders’ new Head Coach Corey Chamblin spouted off at the trash talking done by the Lions, hoping to incite a new level of hatred among these two foes.
Jason Aragki will return from a fractured arm to help shore up some Lions Special Teams Defence.
Saskatchewan’s RB Kory Sheets is off to a solid start and will hope to factor into this game in a major way, eating up the clock to keep the Lion’s O off the field.
In what should be a tremendous start to a great coaching match-up for years to come, Bene and Chamblin will have their teams primed and ready but the essential factor to capture victory will be consistency.
The Lions have scored in fits but they will have to orchestrate a calm and efficient game-plan from kick-off to final whistle if they hope to show why they clinched a Grey Cup and why the Roughriders selected first in this year’s draft.
Yes it’s early in the season but the Lions will try to capture the top spot in the West.
If you recall last year, they didn’t take over that spot until the very last week of schedule.
Cheers, The Bartender