Game Preview | Lions at RED and BLACK

They put the rest of the league on notice with two near-perfect outings to start their season. Now comes a litmus test of sorts for Nathan Rourke and the 2-0 BC Lions as they invade the nation’s capital for a Thursday night game against the Ottawa REDBLACKS 0-2. A short week, a long flight and a first real glimpse of the injury bug all stare them in the face as they look to stay perfect on the young campaign. Let’s go, says the two-time CFL Player of the Week.

“It’s not ideal,” admits Rourke after having had only two days of real preparation for this contest.

“But the big teams find a way to do it. We want to prove that we are a great team and this is a great opportunity to do so.

On paper, it might look like Rourke and company should be the heavy favorites. When you really dive into the game, you’ll see an Ottawa team that played very hard against the two-time defending Gray Cup champions, losing both games by a combined nine points.

“A team that doesn’t reflect their track record,” Rourke said.

“They’re a very, very good team, they’re well trained, they’ve got guys who’ve won a lot of games and we’re going to have our hands full. They are a very good team but that is what we want. These are the kinds of situations you want to be in and we can’t wait to be there.

“They’re a good football team,” added head coach Rick Campbell.

“They played a little differently than last year with all their free agent signings. The thing we have to worry about at the end of the day is going out there and playing the best football we can. When we do that we think we always have a good chance of winning and that’s what we’ll be aiming for on Thursday.

It will indeed be a good test for this solid Lions defense against quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and a REDBLACKS attack that includes fellow countryman Darwin Adams. Masoli is just behind Rourke with 711 passing yards in two games.

As for the Lions injury situation, newcomer Josh Pearson takes the place of Bryan Burnham. A member of the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl-winning team, Pearson showed well in training camp and will now have the chance to prove he can stay in this offense. The number 12 believes the unit are well placed to continue winning with Burnham sidelined for at least the next two weeks.

“It’s going to be tough in a short week but I have full faith in Rhymes, full faith in Hatch, Cottoy and Josh. He had a great camp and showed a lot of progress so I’m excited to see him. play and play,” added Rourke.

So what does number 12 have in store for us in the third round? After 718 passing yards, a passing percentage nearing 90% and seven league-leading touchdown passes, the goal remains simple for the even-keeled quarterback. As you can imagine, he’s not interested in adding more yards to his Canadian passing mark in a single game.

“We’re going for the win,” he said.

Running back James Butler cleared concussion protocol this week while linebacker Bo Lokombo is also on track to start. Lokombo is officially listed as questionable.

The game

BC Lions (2-0-0) vs. Ottawa REDBLACKS (0-2-0)

THURSDAY June 30

4:30 p.m., TD Place

Television: TSN, ESPN2

Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 147 Canada Talks

Season Series: Teams meet September 30 at BC Place



3 lions to watch

#89- WR Josh Pearson– The lanky, athletic receiver gets his shot in this offense after performing well for much of training camp. We’ll see how much chemistry Rourke can establish with No. 89 early on.

#48- DL Tibo Debaillie- Perhaps one of the most underrated members of this defense who put up some impressive credentials over the course of two games. The native Belgian has been a force in the run-stopping game while keeping blockers away from those trying to get to the opposing quarterback.

#0- Loucheiz Purifoy- As co-GM Neil McEvoy said during his appearance with Donnie and Dhali earlier this week, Purifoy is just a “solid football player who doesn’t have to say much”. Louch played admirably at the nickel position, allowing defensive schemes to feature guys in their usual places in the secondary.

Additional footage

Rourke and the offense have scored 12 touchdowns in 23 offensive drives, a 52% rate. They missed out on a brace in the win over Toronto last week.

The Lions are in the middle of a nice little streak against the REDBLACKS, winning the last five meetings dating back to September 2018. The Leos also hold a historic 9-5-0 advantage in regular season meetings.

In all-time meetings with Ottawa franchises dating back to 1954, the Lions hold an all-time advantage of 48-23-2. Lions’ .671 winning percentage is higher than any other opponent.

The fierce Lions defense has allowed no fourth quarter points in two games this season.

Another impressive feat thanks to Lions historian Steve Daniel: the Lions are the first team to win consecutive games by 40 or more points since the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1999. This Ticats team led by Danny McManus and Darren Flutie then sipped the Gray Cup.

Another REDBLACKS to watch, receiver Jaelon Acklin leads the CFL with 110 yards per game.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com

Charles P. Patton