Lions look to reverse trend vs. Stamps
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
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.