Lions at a loss to ex­plain tough sea­son as play­off chances slip away

The News (New Glasgow) - - SPORTS -

Rookie B.C. Lions line­backer Micah Awe says he has lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence to draw from as he tries to un­der­stand the dire sit­u­a­tion fac­ing the Cana­dian Foot­ball League club. Nei­ther do any of his team­mates.

The Lions are on the verge of miss­ing the play­offs for the first time in 21 sea­sons, and both vet­er­ans and first-year play­ers alike are hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time deal­ing with their po­ten­tial fate.

B.C. (6-8) trav­els to face the 10-4 Win­nipeg Blue Bombers on Satur­day need­ing a vic­tory — plus losses by the 8-6 Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos and Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers - to stay in con­tention for post-sea­son play. Ac­cord­ing to sportsclub­stats.com, the Lions’ chance of main­tain­ing their play­off streak is 6.3 per cent.

It could all be over for the Lions by the time their char­ter air­craft ar­rives at home Satur­day night.

Amid the un­cer­tainty are firstyear play­ers like Awe, a well­spo­ken 23-year-old. Awe said the team is still try­ing to find an iden­tity 14 games into the sea­son, with no vet­er­ans able to help him out.

“One thing I’ve heard from the vet­er­ans is that this is the most tal­ented team they’ve been on. I found that very ironic,” said Awe, who played in three col­lege bowl games and had just one los­ing sea­son dur­ing his four-year stint at Texas Tech.

“We’ve al­ways heard the cliche that hard work beats tal­ent. To me, that’s not nec­es­sar­ily true. When tal­ent can’t fig­ure it out, it doesn’t mat­ter. We have the tal­ent. We’re not ex­e­cut­ing.

“Ei­ther we’re re­ally good or re­ally bad and noth­ing between.”

The down­turn in for­tunes this sea­son af­ter a post­ing a 12-6 mark in 2016 has been fol­lowed by ques­tions as to whether owner David Bra­ley will sell his team, or if coach/gen­eral man­ager Wally Buono will re­tire.

At­ten­dance at Lions games is pro­ject­ing to be the low­est since 2002, with a re­ported av­er­age of 19,953 fans turn­ing out to the seven home games played at B.C. Place Sta­dium this year.

Buono said get­ting his team to main­tain some con­fi­dence down the stretch is as big a chal­lenge as fac­ing the Blue Bombers. Vet­eran play­ers like re­ceiver Manny Arce­neaux point to the lack of a killer in­stinct. In the Lions’ last game, they gave up a 19-point lead in a 30-25 loss to Ottawa.

“If the guys that’s in it for the long haul show up th­ese next weeks of foot­ball, things can work in our favour. But when con­fi­dence wa­vers, just be a man about it and let guys know,” said Arce­neaux, one of a hand­ful of vet­er­ans who have never missed the CFL play­offs.

As one of 27 play­ers who will be with­out a con­tract for next sea­son, Arce­neaux warned that some team­mates might be more in­ter­ested in pad­ding their sta­tis­tics for pos­si­ble em­ploy­ment else­where.

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