‘Next man up’ put to the test in Cal­gary

Winnipeg Free Press - - SPORTS I CFL - DONNA SPENCER

CAL­GARY — Re­turn­ing to the CFL is not like rid­ing a bike, re­ceiver Chris Matthews says.

The CFL’s most out­stand­ing rookie in 2012 when he was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Matthews is back in the league with the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers.

A re­ceiv­ing corps rav­aged by in­juries ac­cel­er­ated Matthews’ re-en­try. He’s on to­day’s game ros­ter against the B.C. Lions less than two weeks af­ter his sign­ing.

The 6-5, 228-pound Cal­i­for­nian caught four passes for 109 yards and a touch­down in the 2015 Su­per Bowl in a los­ing cause for the Seat­tle Sea­hawks.

Matthews was re­leased from the Bal­ti­more Ravens in late 2017.

He says ad­just­ing to the Cana­dian game again isn’t au­to­matic. Matthews has been in hurry-up mode learn­ing an un­fa­mil­iar of­fence in Cal­gary.

Stam­ped­ers quar­ter­back Bo Levi Mitchell has helped him a lot, Matthews said.

“It’s a lot of in­tri­cate parts to our of­fence that makes us unique,” Matthews said. “Bo did some­thing amaz­ing for me to­day. He wrote down a lot of things I needed to un­der­stand dur­ing the game. He wrote it down, drew up the pic­ture and ev­ery­thing.”

Marken Michel (shoul­der) is the lat­est Stam­ped­ers re­ceiver to go on the six-game in­jured list, fol­low­ing Ka­mar Jor­den (knee), DaVaris Daniels (col­lar­bone) and Reg­gie Begel­ton (arm) — all in the past six weeks.

“I’ve got to go out there and make plays and trust those guys will go out and do it for me as well,” Mitchell said.

Al­ready as­sured a home play­off game, the Stam­ped­ers want to lock down first in the West Divi­sion and se­cure a play­off bye.

A win over the Lions com­bined with a Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers loss to, or tie with, the Blue Bombers ear­lier to­day would get that done. So would a Cal­gary tie plus a Saskatchewan loss.

B.C. has won four of its past five games, in­clud­ing a first road vic­tory this sea­son.

“I think the guys have started to buy into what we’re sell­ing,” Lions head coach Wally Buono said. “Es­pe­cially on de­fence, our guys are play­ing bet­ter than they were at the be­gin­ning of the year.

“On of­fence, we’ve been in­con­sis­tent and for us to fin­ish strong, we’ve got to be much more con­sis­tent on of­fence.

“There’s no goal other than to make the play­offs. I think that’s crit­i­cal.”

Af­ter miss­ing three games with a shoul­der in­jury, Lions quar­ter­back Travis Lu­lay is ex­pected to start to­day.

Jonathon Jen­nings went 2-1 in his ab­sence, and fin­ished up the win in Mon­treal on Sept. 14, when Lu­lay was in­jured.

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B.C. LIONS (7-7) AT CAL­GARY STAM­PED­ERS (12-2)

AM­BER BRACKEN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos quar­ter­back Mike Reilly throws un­der pres­sure from Winnipeg Blue Bombers de­fender Jake Thomas in Ed­mon­ton on Sept. 29. Ed­mon­ton plays Winnipeg again on Nov. 3.

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