LIVESTREAM: CFL – Montreal Alouettes @BC Lions, June 16, 7p (10p EST, 4a June 17 CEST)

VANCOUVER — As they prepare for a season-opening showdown at BC Place on Saturday night, the BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes — though both hundreds of days and a plethora of new faces removed from the disappointments of 2017 — still have lingering scars from last season.

The Lions dropped six of their final seven contests en route to a 7-11 record, while the Alouettes limped to a franchise-worst 3-15 mark. Both finished dead-last in their respective division, and changes were made accordingly.

For returning players, there is little doubt a bitter taste lingers from 2017; both squads started brightly, only to fizzle and fade down the stretch.

Call it motivation, or perhaps a desire to set things right. Whatever it is, it’s there.

“I want to be a champion,” Als running back Tyrell Sutton told “I want to come out here and play for my guys. That’s normally how I play: Tenacious, rough and tough.”

There is little doubt in Montreal that Sutton, who tallied 1,155 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns last year, will have a key role to play in any success the Alouette offence might achieve.

In Montreal, new head coach Mike Sherman will be flanked by an experienced coaching staff led by coordinators Khari Jones (offence) and Rich Stubler (defence).

Jones’s intimate knowledge of the Lions — he spent the last four seasons in BC as the offensive coordinator — could come in handy for Montreal starting quarterback Drew Willy, who feels ready to take the reins of the Alouettes’ talent-laden offence.

“I think I’m more mentally ready, (and) every year you get more experience,” said the 31-year-old Willy, who has not started more than seven games in a season since 2014. “The game slows down a little (and) the ball comes a little quicker for you because you’re more decisive…(and) confident throughout your reads.”

Former Toronto Argonaut Jeff Mathews will serve as Willy’s primary backup after being signed on June 12; the 26-year-old quarterback was inked by Als GM Kavis Reed after Matt Shiltz — Willy’s primary competitor for the QB-1 job — went down with an injury.

“I think it’s a great franchise, (with an) unbelievable tradition here (and) great fan base,” said Mathews. “Any player would be lucky to play here — (I) want to come in and contribute any way (I) can.”

In addition to all-star talent like Chris Williams on the offensive side of the ball, Montreal added in a big way on defence with the acquisitions of Tommie CampbellJoe Burnett and Dominique Ellis in the secondary.

The 30-year-old Campbell had been a standout defender the past two seasons in Calgary, and joins a remarkably deep group of Alouettes defensive backs.

“Amongst the DBs, we have fun with everything,” said Campbell when asked how the group manages a large number of starter-level egos. “Everybody has their own ego, (but) if one guy is venturing off, we joke around and try to lift his spirit. We’re a real tight group.”

Montreal’s marquee defensive signing was named to TSN’s pre-season Top CFL 50 Players list, but believes a number of his teammates were unforgivably snubbed.

“Guys like Chris Williams, (Tyrell) Sutton, Ernest Jackson, B.J. Cunningham, that I played against with Calgary last year…” trailed off Campbell. “There’s a lot of stuff we watch in the film room that the media sometimes doesn’t see. It’s more than just a paper game.”


As for the key to shutting down BC’s playmaker-filled offence?

“We have to hit Jennings,” said Campbell bluntly. “We hit Jennings, we’ll be okay.”

As expected, 2017 first-overall draft pick Faith Ekakitie was snapped off the market quickly — by the Alouettes — following his release from Winnipeg on June 9. However, Ekakitie will miss Saturday’s contest on the one-game injured list, along with veteran defensive end John Bowman and the aforementioned pair of Burnett and Shiltz.

The major storyline on the west coast entering 2018 remains the fact this is the end of head coach Wally Buono’s legendary coaching career. It’s an all-or-nothing situation for the 68-year-old Buono, and the Lions’ “Win For Wally” campaign has drawn attention to his impending retirement from the game.

“I’ve kind of neutralized that by saying ‘guys, win it for yourself’,” Buono told “If you have a rallying cry, that’s great. But at the end of it, I’m just telling you when it gets tough out there if you’re not doing it for yourself it’s tough to do it for somebody else.”

One of the Lions who will have to bear down when the road gets bumpy in order for BC to have success is Jonathon Jennings; the 25-year-old quarterback is coming off an inconsistent 2017 campaign in which he threw 16 touchdowns against 19 interceptions.

“We’re just all excited, it’s a different vibe out here,” said Jennings, a Saginaw Valley alum entering his fourth professional season. “We’re trying to clean up some of those small things and make sure we’re on the same page with every single read and what we’re trying to execute on offence.”

In addition to the usual suspects — Bryan BurnhamEmmanuel Arceneaux, etc. — Jennings will have another game-breaking receiver at his disposal in 26-year-old Ricky Collins Jr.

An athletic wideout who recorded a pair of 100-yard games while with Saskatchewan in 2016, Collins was limited to just a single game in 2017 and enters this season with something to prove.

BC made a point of acquiring veterans on the line of scrimmage this past winter, and the result entering Week 1 is a downright scary position group.

The newly-acquired duo of Gabriel Knapton and Odell Willis — combined career sacks: 118 — will start opposite each other at defensive end.

“Odell is great to have on your opposite side,” said Knapton. “He knows a great amount about the game, he’s a good vet and they have to focus on him. That will let me go a little bit and if they focus on me he can do his thing.”

And the motivation that comes with playing the Alouettes, his former team? Present and accounted for.

“It (the trade) was needed,” said Knapton. “I was ready to be out of there and have a change of scenery. I couldn’t be more happy about where I am today and now Montreal is going to have to prepare against me.”

Cruchin’ Numbers:

4 – Years since Drew Willy last started the majority of games for his team (Winnipeg, 2014) in a season.

11 – Number of starters on the Lions’ Week 1 depth chart who were not on the team at the end of the 2017 season. (Four on offence, seven on defence).

32 – Career sacks for newly-acquired Montreal defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman in just 47 career games (0.68 sacks-per-game).

54 – Career touchdown receptions for BC slotback Manny Arceneaux.

While our panel of experts is taking the Lions on home turf across the board, the Alouettes certainly boast enough playmakers to give them a run.

Will Jonathon Jennings return to his 2016 form, which saw him throw nearly twice as many touchdowns as interceptions? Will Drew Willy finally be able to lead a team through an entire season?

Large questions loom under centre for both teams, and Saturday’s Week 1 contest will help us begin filling in the answers.

– With files from

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2017 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM: CFL Season opener – Montreal Alouettes @BC Lions, June 16, 7p (10p EST, 4a June 17 CEST)

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