Lions look to re­verse trend vs. Stamps

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - ED WILLES Ewilles@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/willeson­sports

The ques­tion was asked of Manny Arce­neaux — are you guys tired of los­ing to Cal­gary? — and, sud­denly, it was like one of those ca­ble news shows where every­one on the panel talks at once.

Arce­neaux started to an­swer, but be­fore he could fin­ish his first sen­tence he was joined by Bryan Burn­ham. Then Nick Moore’s voice was added to the cho­rus. Then Chris Williams chimed in.

In the re­sult­ing ca­coph­ony, it was dif­fi­cult to pin­point a spe­cific re­sponse to the ques­tion, but most of the noise seemed to re­volve around the fol­low­ing point. Sure, the Stamps are a good reg­u­lar-sea­son team, but they didn’t win the Grey Cup last year when they went 15-21, which makes them the 2016 Golden State War­riors of the CFL. Talk to us when this sea­son is over be­cause the Stamps haven’t won any­thing yet.

And that’s true, to a point. Yet, while en­ter­tain­ing, the re­sponse misses the big­ger pic­ture by roughly the dis­tance be­tween Venus and Pluto.

The in­escapable fact is, since John Huf­nagel took over in Cal­gary in 2008, the Stamps have used the Lions as their per­sonal plush toy. They’re 19-10 against the Lions in the reg­u­lar sea­son and 4-0 in the play­offs.

Two years ago, Huf­nagel turned the coach­ing reins over to Dave Dick­en­son, stepped into the GM’s of­fice and the beat went on. The Lions beat the Stam­ped­ers in the 2016 sea­son opener, then lost the next two in the reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore they were drilled 42-15 in the West fi­nal.

This year the Stamps won the first meet­ing at B.C. Place Sta­dium, set­ting up to­day’s en­counter at McMa­hon Sta­dium, where the Lions haven’t won in three years.

Is it just me or does some­one else see a pat­tern here?

Just so you know, quar­ter­back Jonathon Jen­nings is 1-5 in ca­reer reg­u­lar sea­son starts against the Horse­men in ad­di­tion to suf­fer­ing two more beat­downs in the play­offs.

He was also asked if he’s tired of hav­ing his lunch handed to him by the Stamps.

“No ques­tion,” he said. “We don’t want to lose to any­body, but this is a team that sets the tone for the league. Ob­vi­ously, we want to come here and show the league we are who we think we are.”

Some­where, Denny Green is smiling.

As it hap­pens, the Lions’ best chance at beat­ing the Stamps rests with those afore­men­tioned re­ceivers, who will start to­gether for just the sec­ond time this sea­son. The mas­ter plan was to play all four im­ports, giv­ing Jen­nings an im­pos­ing set of weapons. Alas, it hasn’t worked out that way. First, Williams missed the first six games of the reg­u­lar sea­son. Travis Lu­lay then started the one game the four played to­gether, a 30-15 win over Saskatchewan on Aug. 3 be­fore in­juries to Burn­ham and Moore scut­tled that de­ploy­ment once again.

Con­cerns over the of­fen­sive line also led to head coach Wally Buono play­ing im­ports Kelvin Palmer and An­to­nio John­son at the tackle spots.

On Satur­day, Cana­dian David Fou­cault starts at right tackle, al­low­ing the Lions to play the four im­port re­ceivers. The least you can say is it’s an in­trigu­ing col­lec­tion of tal­ent. If Jen­nings stays up­right long enough to ex­ploit it, so much the bet­ter.

“They’re not a su­per fancy team,” Jen­nings said of the Stamps. “They don’t do a lot of crazy stuff. They’re just dis­ci­plined and they’re sound and con­sis­tent in what they do.

“They’re go­ing to take ad­van­tage of your mis­takes. You have to elim­i­nate those and you have to take their will away by mak­ing big plays.”

The Stamps will have some­thing to say about that. Rush end Charleston Hughes, who seems to grow a foot and add 100 pounds when he plays the Lions, added some spice to the matchup Fri­day when he likened play­ing against Jen­nings to, ahem, a lion stalking its prey.

“I get to chase him around and play with him a bit be­fore I sack him,” Hughes said.

In re­sponse, Jen­nings said “Charleston is a funny guy.”

Ex­cept no one on the Lions is laugh­ing about their record against the Stamps. They un­der­stand what it says about their team — that they’re good enough to beat medi­ocre teams but not good enough to beat the elites. And they un­der­stand the road to the Grey Cup will, again, run through Cal­gary.

That doesn’t make it any eas­ier. But at least they un­der­stand it.

“It’s good to have a lit­tle chip on your shoul­der,” line­backer Solomon Elim­imian said.

And bet­ter if you play like it.

I get to chase him (Jen­nings) around and play with him a bit be­fore

I sack him. CHARLESTON HUGHES, Cal­gary de­fen­sive line­man

DAR­RYL DYCK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers Rob Cote, left, and Jerome Mes­sam cel­e­brate Mes­sam’s touch­down against the B.C. Lions in a Week 9 vic­tory at B.C. Place Aug. 18. The Stam­ped­ers host the Lions at McMa­hon Sta­dium to­day in Cal­gary, where B.C. hasn’t won in three years.

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