Welcome to out Live Blog for tonights game betwen the Edmonton Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. We’ll get started at 6:00pm, so make sure you come and join us to watch the game and discuss CFL football with fans just like yourself.
This week sees the return of BC Lions football, and it also marks the start of a new era for this team. Many veterans have been let go or have moved on and fans are going to have to wait and see if the talent Wally Buono and company have assembled can keep this team competitive in the always tough Western Division of the Canadian Football League.
Let’s take a look at the Lions as they enter the 2009 season, and introduce you to the new names you should be keeping an eye on.
Key Deletions: Jason Clermont, Stefan Logan, Bret Anderson, Rob Murphy, Kelly Bates
Key Additions: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Terence Scott, Martell Mallett
Their time is now: Walter Stith, Dean Valli, Alexis Bwenge, Rolly Lumbala, Ian Smart, Paris Jackson, Ryan Grice-Mullen
Early in the off-season Wally Buono chose to name Buck Pierce as his starting quarterback, the thinking being that having a clear number one and number two would provide everyone with the chance to come to camp prepared. Off-season workouts with fitness guru Chris Boyko saw a stronger and more toned Buck Pierce show up for training camp, knowing that he was the guy. Pierce had decent numbers in the preseason, except in one area; getting the ball in the end zone. This trend carried over from last year’s Western Final, and is starting to become a concerning trend. Field goals aren’t going to get you a lot of wins in this league, and Pierce and the Lions offense have to find ways to finish drives when they get in the red zone.
It will also be interesting to see if Pierce’s newly designed workout regime will be able to keep him healthier this season. Part of the Lions problems the past couple of seasons, has been the inconsistency on offense, and behind centre. One week it’s Pierce, he gets on a roll, then he gets hurt. The next week it’s Jackson…and so on and so on. With a new offense and new personnel, continuity at the quarterback position is going to be essential to getting everyone on the same page, which was obviously the thinking behind Wally’s decision to name a starter going into camp.
Behind Pierce, Jarious Jackson returns for another season. Obviously somewhat disappointed he didn’t get a chance to compete for the starters job, Jackson is the consummate team player and seems to perform better coming off the bench in a relief roll. Zac Champion returns for his second season, and he’s joined by newcomer Travis Lulay, who was perhaps the most impressive performer of the four in the preseason, and has already moved past Champion on the depth chart.
The BC Lions were pretty much prepared to lose outstanding CFL tackle Rob Murphy during the 2009 off-season, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to replace the man that his former teammates credit with instilling attitude into the BC offensive line. Throw in the trade to Winnipeg of guard Kelly Bates to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the left side of the offensive line is overhauled in 2009.
Last years backup Walter Stith held of Darren Marquez at the left tackle spot, while Dean Valli slips into Bates position. Valli, who banged up his knee a bit in camp and missed sessions, looked to have been passed on the depth chart by Jon Hameister-Reis but a late shoulder injury to him, vaulted Valli back into the spot. Angus Reid holds down the fort once again at centre, while Sherko Haji-Rasouli and Jason Jimenez round out the starters.
The injury to Hameister-Reis, who’s likely gone for the majority of the season, left the Lions with a bit of a depth issue, so in addition to rookie Justin Sorensen and Andrew Jones, the Lions have added veteran free agent Bobby Singh to the practice roster for insurance.
One departure the Lions were not really counting on was Stefan Logan. The club was no doubt salivating at the options of designing a playbook around the shifty scat back that was starting to assert himself as a star in the league by the end of last season. The two sides had even verbally agreed to a contract extension according to reports. But then a late offer came in from the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and Logan took them up on it.
When the dust settled, newcomer Martell Mallet and veteran Ian Smart will start the year in the backfield for the Lions. Smart was the most effective of the backs in pre-season, but by using him in that role the fear is your return game suffers and no replacement has emerged out of training camp. Buono had stated he wouldn’t use his featured back in a duel role, but seemed to rethink that when Smart went back for a few returns. Martell Mallet who was hampered with a sprained knee in camp, showed enough in the final game of the pre-season to win the other spot. It remains to be seen how the team will utilize Smart and Mallet, but look for Smart to see a lot of passes coming out of the backfield with the intention of taking advantage of his speed, while Mallett may see the ball when tougher yards are needed. At fullback, Lyle Green has been moved to slotback so up and comers Rolly Lumbala and Alexis Bwenge have a chance to play a bigger role in the offense.
Young junior star Andrew Harris will bide his time on the practice roster under the safety of territorial protection and will be brought along slowly by the team after a very impressive camp where he at times looked like the best back on the field.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the earliest your likely to see Stefan Logan if at all this year is late September or early August, as it appears he’s headed to the Steelers main camp.
No doubt the biggest bombshell in the off-season was the release of popular slotback Jason Clermont, but the Lions side of the story was one of philosophy change, and what they felt were the wasted talents of Paris Jackson. The Lions felt they weren’t fast enough at the spot Clermont filled and that problem contributed to the double teaming of Geroy Simon. With Jackson moving into the slot, the Lions will be looking to returnees Ryan Grice-Mullen and Rufus Skillern, while looking for contributions from newcomers Emmanuel Arceneaux and Terence Scott. The always ready and capable Lyle Green moves to the slot and will be interchanged with Cory Rodgers, Greg Hetherington, and O’Neil Wilson.
Geroy Simon will once again be the featured receiver of the bunch, with the hope being that with more speed and some different schemes he can escape some the double teams he’s been seeing because if they double him, Jackson can make them pay.
The Lions will hope they find another deep threat receiver in this group as well and look for Jackson to thrive in his new role.
Key Losses: Tyrone Williams, Otis Floyd, Cam Wake, Jamal Johnson, Jay Pottinger
Key Additions: Anton McKenzie, Jonathon Williams, Gary Butler, Nautyn McKay-Loescher
Their time is now: Ricky Foley, Jeremy Gibbs
Let’s get one thing out of the way, no one is going to replace Cam Wake. Now that we’ve said that, how do you replace the production of Cam Wake? You have to try and do it by committee and when the BC Lions line up and pin their ears back on defense Ricky Foley will start in end spot of the departed Wake. He’ll be helped by a combination of Nautyn McKay-Loescher and newcomer Gary Butler, who beat out second year player Caesar Rayford for the job. The rest of the starting line will see Aaron Hunt, Jeremy Gibbs and Brent Johnson line up beside Foley, with free agent signing Jonathon Williams also making the roster.
The Lions prized free agent signing was linebacker Anton McKenzie formerly of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and he’ll team with Javy Glatt in two linebacker set that will be supported by Korey Banks from the secondary. Terna Nande and rookie James Yurichuk fill out the reserves while late camp arrival Courtney Smith awaits his chance on the practice roster.
The recent release of Jamal Johnson from the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, could see linebacker and special teams demon move back to the Leos, but at the time this was written the clubs were exchanging contracts. The problem is with this formation the Lions have adapted, Johnson likely wouldn’t start, and that may be a key to his decision on whether to return to BC. Failing that it seems as though Reggie Hunt would be plan B and both Calgary and Edmonton seem to have expressed interest in Johnson as well.
The one area the Lions have remained consistent in is the secondary, where the team will still be lead by the wily leadership of safety Barron Miles. Lavar Glover and Dante Marsh return to defend the corners, while Korey Banks, Jerome Dennis, Ryan Phillips and rookie Darren Toney fill out the DB’s. Tad Crawford and second year player Jason Arakgi will also see time at safety.
This group went through struggles in the first half of last season, but picked things up in the second. The Lions will need them to be good from the start as this team gels in other areas. As mentioned earlier, Banks looks to have a much more active role in the defense this year, not only defending the pass but supporting the linebackers as a nickle back, and coming on the occasional blitz package.
Wally Buono has chosen to keep two kickers on the active roster, both non-imports in Paul McCallum and Sean Whyte. Whyte has been brought along the last two years on the clubs practice roster, and has made great strides in his game, most noticeably in the punting area. In the pre-season, Whyte did well in his game while McCallum struggled. Look for Whyte to take kickoffs, to start while McCallum handles the punting and field goals, for now.
Watch for more great special teams play from Jason Aragki, as well as newcomer James Yurichuk.
Time for our weekly edition of Den Talk. A weekly round up of the new surrounding the BC Lions. The club played their first exhibition game of the 2009 season and many questions remain surrounding this years editions of the Lions.
The Game :: Lions 30 at Stampeders 37
As far as exhibition games went it sounded like a fairly entertaining contest after the slow first quarter. Neither team came out firing on all cylinders, and with Buck Pierce struggling to get a good drive going, he probably played longer than Wally Buono wanted him the lineup but he got the chains moving late in the first quarter and connected on a TD pass to Greg Hetherington to begin the second.
Jeremy Gibbs had a strong game on defense, swarming around the ball and recording 3 tackles and 1 sack on the night. His performance no doubt left him as the front runner to replace Tyrone Williams.
Emmanuel Arceneaux and Terence Scott and Hetherington were the best receivers on the night while all four quarterbacks had success. Travis Lulay almost rallied the team for the tying touchdown on the last drive of the game but ran out of time. This fresh crop of receivers are impressing enough that former Lion and Arena League standout Jerel Myers was released this week. It will be interesting to see who Wally chooses to remain on the roster after this final week.
The offensive line payed decent on the night, with players switching in and out and playing out of position at times for the benefit of the coaching staff. Jon Hameister-Reis looks to be laying claim to the left guard position thought to be Dean Valli’s to lose. A knee injury at camp has come at the worst time for Valli, but it didn’t keep him out of the game. Both Darren Marquez and Walter Stith looked good at the tackle spots.
The real concern coming out of the game, besides some missed tackles and big plays given up by a raw secondary, was the non-emergence of a presence at running back. Ian Smart continues to look like the best option, but the Lions return game looked inept for the most part without him. Somewhat to be expected trying new personnel perhaps but Buono said he won’t use his featured back as a returner. With Stefan Logan surviving Steeler mini-camp, he’ll now likely be gone until at least September if he comes back at all, so Roy Shivers will have to find some more options, or hope that one of the contenders or a kick returner shows something special on Tuesday.
The Lions rolled out their retro uniforms from the 1960’s era and I have to say, they look pretty sweet. The helmets, right down to the gray face masks are very slick and the simple white uniform with orange sleeves and back pants complete a very nice nice combination. You can check out Buck Pierce modeling the uniforms on BCLions.com.
Lowell Ullrich of the Province touches on the running back situation.
Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald speaks about Wally Buono’s pursuit of the CFL all-time coaching wins record.
This weeks transactions:
2009-06-19: Deleted from roster: DB B.J. Tucker (I), DB Mil’von James (I), DL Rodney Allen (I).
2009-06-16: Deleted from roster: DB John Guice (I), WR Jerel Myers (I).
2009-06-12: Deleted from roster: DB Donald Brown (I), LB Marcus Richardson (I), OL Vaughn Lesuma (I). Added to roster: LB Courtney Smith (I). Removed from suspended list and added to roster: DB Trestin George (I).
Calgary, AB – The BC Lions finally got to hit someone in a different jersey Wednesday night when they visited the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.
The Lions offense started out slowly going scoreless in the first have and not moving the ball. While the Stampeders didn’t exactly light up the field, they did end the first quarter with a 6-0 lead. Henry Burris finished the night 3-7 for 42 yards, 0 TD’s and 0 interceptions. Calgary scored on their continued possession to start the second half on a 12 yard scamper by QB Barrick Nealy thanks to a great ball fake and open-field deke, giving the home side a 13-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
With Wally Buono not satisfied with what he saw from Buck Pierce in the first quarter, he left his starter in the game and Pierce finally put together a nice drive featuring receiver Greg Hetherington who hauled in a 12 yard touchdown on a seam route to cut the lead to 13-7. Pierce left the game 7-10 for 77 yards,1 TD, 0 interceptions and one turnover (fumble).
The Lions chipped away a little bit more after they recovered a Barrick Nealy fumble on a botched hand-off at the Calgary 30 yard line. Sean Whyte kicked a 23 yard field goal to make the score 13-10.
Jarious Jackson went to work in the second half and put together a nice drive with passes to Terence Scott and Martell Malllet and appeared to score the go ahead touchdown on what looked to be a great catch by Otis Amey. But upon video review it was determined the catch was not made and the Lions had to settle for a 26 yard Whyte field goal and the game was tied 13-13. But a last minute drive by Calgary and a 28 yard pass from Drew Tate put the Stamps 1st and 10 on the Lions 9 yard line. They punched it in on a 4 yard reception by Jermane Jackson and the Stamps led 20-13 at halftime.
Jackson started the 2nd half but couldn’t muster any offense and he eventually gave way to Zac Champion. Jackson finished the game 6-14 for 77 yards, 0 TD’s and 0 interceptions.Calgary’s Drew Tate capped off a nice 66 yard drive which featured a 50 yard catch and run to Jermaine Jackson. Tate punched it in from the 1 yard line to give the home side a 27-13 lead. But Champion directed the Lions to a major after a 4 play 32 yard drive that ended with a 4 yard pass to Emmanuel Arceneaux, to bring the Lions within 7 at 27-20. After a 49 yard Sandro DeAngelis field goal made it 30-20 and the Lions replied with a 41 yard effort by Whyte, the Stamps struck again with a 2 play 99 yard drive which saw Matt D’Orazio connect with Jabari Arthur to put the Stamps up 37-23.
Travis Lulay entered the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, and orchestrated a nice drive, which ended with a nice throw to new slot-back but long time veteran Lyle Green and the Lions were once again within 7 points.
With 42 seconds remaining the Lions got the ball back and Travis Lulay engineered a fantastic drive all the way down to the 14 yard with 5 seconds left but on the final playover threw his intended receiver and the Stamps held on for the win.
Standouts: WR Greg Hetherington: 4 catches for 54 yards and 1 touchdown. WR Terence Scott: 5 catches for 92 yards. DT Jeremy Gibbs 3 tackles, 1 sac. DE Ceasar Rayford: 3 tackles, 2 sacks and one fumble recovery. QB Travis Lulay: 8-13 106 yards and 1 touchdown.
Abbotsford BC – The BC Lions held their annual fan fest Sunday under sunny skies at Rotary Stadium in Abbotsford, home of the team’s 2009 training camp. The event is somewhat of a pep rally for the team, where fans can mingle with their favourite players as well as get autographs and pictures. There are activities for children, a silent auction and a 50/50 draw to support high school football.
The players were brought in through a line of high school players from WJ Mouat Secondary and the sound of drums before dispersing to sign autographs and pose for photographs with fans.
The afternoon concluded with a team scrimmage that saw some nice plays by the likes of Andrew Harris, Geroy Simon, Buck Pierce, and Terence Scott among others.
Check out our Fan Fest 2009 photo gallery!