The task at hand is simple one for Travis Lulay and the B.C. Lions: Win and they’re in the CFL playoffs.
B.C. (8-7) can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos (8-8). The Lions have put themselves in the playoff picture with a solid late-season run that’s seen them win five of their last six contests, including last weekend’s 26-21 victory over the front-running Calgary Stampeders (12-3).
The Lions are also 6-3 over their last nine games, a stretch that began with a 31-23 home victory over Edmonton on Aug. 9. By comparison, the Eskimos are 3-6 over the same span but did snap a three-game losing streak last weekend with a solid 34-16 home win over the Ottawa Redblacks.
CFL passing leader Mike Reilly returned to form against Ottawa, completing 31-of-38 passes for 369 yards with a TD while rushing for 72 yards on 10 carries. Bryant Mitchell registered 13 catches for 190 yards and a touchdown while league receiving leader D’haquille Williams had three receptions for 39 yards.
Back in August, Reilly threw for 302 yards with two TDs but also had two interceptions and ran for just one yard. Anchored by solid second-half play from its defence, B.C. rallied from a 20-10 half-time deficit to earn the victory.
The Lions’ defence didn’t allow a first down in the third quarter. Otha Foster’s recovery of a Reilly fumble set up Travon Van’s TD run that put B.C. ahead 27-20 early in the fourth.
Last weekend, it was newcomer Tyrell Sutton who was instrumental in B.C.’s win over Calgary. Sutton rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against the CFL’s top-ranked defence against the run (81.1 yards per game).
As important as this encounter is to B.C.’s playoff hopes, it’s a pivotal contest for the Eskimos. They’ve played one more game than the Lions and while a loss wouldn’t eliminate them from playoff contention, it would deliver a crippling blow to the post-season aspirations of a franchise that will be hosting the Grey Cup next month at Commonwealth Stadium.
But let’s consider that B.C. is 6-1 at home this season while Edmonton is 2-8 on the road.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ottawa Redblacks (Friday night)
This is the start of an important home-and-home series. Hamilton (8-7) has won two straight and five of its last seven games. The Redblacks (8-7) have had two consecutive losses but lead the season series 1-0 and could take control of this race with a victory. Then again, the Ticats can clinch top spot with a series sweep.
Montreal Alouettes at Toronto Argonauts (Saturday afternoon)
In a matchup of two teams that will miss the playoffs, James Franklin makes a second straight start for the Argos (3-12), who’ve lost seven straight. Johnny Manziel is still searching for his first CFL win with Montreal (3-12), which has lost four in a row but beat the Double Blue 25-22 in August with Antonio Pipkin under centre.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Calgary Stampeders (Saturday night)
Both teams have clinched playoff berths but are hurting and coming off losses. Yet it’s hard to imagine the Stampeders (12-3) not rebounding under quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, 68-13-2 as a CFL starter and 38-4-0 at McMahon Stadium. Saskatchewan (10-6) dropped a lopsided 31-0 loss to Winnipeg and has been inconsistent offensively all year.
Last week: 3-1.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press