HAMILTON — The best the East has to offer takes on a team in dire need of a victory in a Saturday night contest at Tim Hortons Field.
The BC Lions will be the visitors in a showdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Hamilton. It’s the first of two meetings within the next three weeks between these two sides.
The Lions are hoping for an improved offensive line this week thanks to the acquisition of lineman Justin Renfrow from the Calgary Stampeders in exchange for a player off the Lions’ negotiation list and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020. The Lions have allowed a league-worst 25 sacks this season.
“A lot more goes into it than the front five that are blocking,” said Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks. “It’s communication with the receivers, the running back; a lot of people have to be on the same page.
“We feel like we had to make some changes and we feel like the lineup we have going into this game will give us the opportunity to run the ball, be physical up front and the things that you want out of your front.”
Protection issues have certainly played a role in quarterback Mike Reilly’s numbers being as disappointing as they are. Despite having thrown for over 1,600 yards, he’s thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s hoping, along with everyone else, that their bye week will have allowed his team to reset and start anew.
“Feels like the guys are refreshed and ready to start over,” Reilly said. “(They) came in excited to work also understanding the task at hand and the difficult position we put ourselves in but excited about the opportunity to get back out on the field.”
Running back and returner Brandon Rutley will not dress, leaving the backfield to veteran John White. White has rushed for 329 yards and two touchdowns this season, but his 4.6 yards per carry in 2019 marks the second worst season in his career.
The Lions know their playoff hopes will dwindle should they continue to lose football games. A 1-6 record isn’t insurmountable — in fact, it equals the franchises’ mark through seven games in 2011 before going on to win the Grey Cup — but the rest of the West keeps winning following victories by Winnipeg, Edmonton and Saskatchewan earlier in the weekend.
While the visitors are relatively healthy coming off their bye week, the same cannot be said for the Ticats, who are searching for a fifth straight win at home and have yet lose at Tim Hortons Field this season.
Quarterback Dane Evans continues to fill in for Jeremiah Masoli, whose season is lost due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Evans will have help in the lineup this week as Brandon Banks, known as Speedy, returns to the field after missing the Week 8 loss to Saskatchewan. The 31-year old has three touchdown catches this season and 554 receiving yards.
“I’m feeling good,” Banks said. “Obviously I was banged up a couple weeks ago. But I’m feeling good, I’m fresh, I needed that week off.”
“Speedy’s one of the best players in this league,” Evans said. “Not too many guys go by one name. In any league when you go by one name you’re a big time player so you can’t overlook him.”
Linebacker Simoni Lawrence will also make his return to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for a dangerous hit on former Roughriders quarterback Zack Collaros at the beginning of the season.
Lawrence says he still hasn’t heard from Collaros despite reaching out, and admits it bothered him to be away from the field, but not just because he couldn’t play.
“I mean, yeah, just because of personal appearance, just how people really think I meant to do it,” Lawrence said. “But other than that, man, where I come from everything’s a dream still. My life is a dream so I can’t really ever complain to be real.|
Joining Banks and Lawrence in the lineup will be defensive ends Adrian Tracy, Valentin Gnahoua, running back Cameron Marshall, defensive back Tevin Mitchell, and receivers David Ungerer III and Brian Jones. Mitchell will fill in for Delvin Breaux Sr., who’s been placed on the one-game injured list.
BY THE NUMBERS
68 — The Lions were held to that number of net yards last week, their lowest in 35 years. It’s the lowest by any CFL team since 1995 when Winnipeg only had 65 yards in a game against Saskatchewan.
13 — Lions QB Mike Reilly has been sacked 13 times in the last three games.
6 — The Ticats have had to use six different running backs this season due to injury.
77 — Ticats receiver Luke Tasker had a season-high 77 yards receiving last week against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on five catches.
– With files from BCLions.com/Ticats.ca
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