Beating the Montreal Alouettes in the final game of the season means almost as much to B.C. Lions defensive back Tad Kornegay as securing first place in the CFL West.
Kornegay has some bad history with Montreal. Twice the former Saskatchewan Roughrider lost to the Alouettes in the Grey Cup, once in a game decided by a penalty for too many men on the field.
That's why Kornegay wants to settle some old scores when the Lions (10-7) face the Alouettes (10-7) Saturday night at BC Place Stadium.
“It's personal to me,” Kornegay said Friday after the Lions held a brief practice at their training facility. “I can't deny that.
“I lost two Grey Cups, back to back to them. There is going to be a little more emotion for me this week. It's something I will have to control. I have to focus on winning this game so we can finish off in first place.”
The Lions and Montreal can both finish first in their divisions. The Alouettes' fate could be decided even before kickoff.
The Lions, who started the season 0-5, must win to finish first for the first time since 2007. B.C. would host the West Final a week before the Grey Cup game is played in Vancouver.
The Lions could also slip to third place and begin the playoffs on the road.
The Edmonton Eskimos used a 23-20 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night to improve their record to 11-7 and move into first place in the West. The Calgary Stampeders (10-7) host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-7) on Saturday afternoon.
If B.C. finishes tied with Edmonton or Calgary, the Lions would be seeded higher because they won both season series. If the Lions lose and the Stampeders win, B.C. finishes third.
Quarterback Travis Lulay said the Lions have to focus on themselves.
“It's a bit of a waste of energy worrying about what happens in the two games before,” said Lulay, who has thrown for 4,535 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter.
“That's completely out of our control. The only thing we can control is how we prepare and how we play against Montreal. That's where 100 per cent of our focus has gone.”
The Alouettes, who have lost their last two games, need the Stampeders to beat Winnipeg for a chance to finish first in the East for the fifth time in sixth years.
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo said Montreal doesn't have much room for error.
“This whole year has been tough,” said Calvillo. “You just cannot afford to make too many mistakes.
“Offensively, when you go back to the losses that we had, there were maybe five or six guys making two to three mistakes each, myself included. It's costing us. Going into this last game we just cannot have that any more. We're so close.”
Slotback Jamel Richardson, who leads the league with 1,772 yards and 11 touchdowns on 110 catches, said the Als can't afford three losses heading into the playoffs.
“We look at every game as a must win,” said Richardson, who set a CFL record last week with his 12th 100-yard game in a single season. “We are going out there and play every game to win.
“We want to get this victory going into the playoffs and stay on a high note.”
The Lions need to control Calvillo to beat Montreal.
The 38-year-old veteran leads the league with 5,188 yards passing and 32 touchdowns. During the season he broke records for career touchdown passes, passing yards and completions.
“With A.C., he is going to get his plays and he is going to get his completions,” Lions' head coach/GM Wally Buono said. “You have to make sure that after the catch there isn't a whole lot more yards.
“The other big thing is making sure the ball isn't going to be thrown over your head.”
Montreal beat B.C. 30-26 back in Week 1.
Vancouver hasn't been friendly to the Alouettes. Montreal is 1-9 in B.C. dating back to 2001 with the Lions outscoring them 328-223.
Calvillo takes comfort in the fact Montreal did beat B.C. 16-12 last year in a game played at Empire Field, the temporary facility the Lions used while BC Place was being refurbished.
“I do believe the last three years we made some major steps forward,” Calvillo said when interviewed at a downtown Vancouver hotel.
“We did win last year. We had great chances to win the years before that. We are heading in the right direction. This week is going to be another opportunity for us to go out there and prove to ourselves and everyone else we can come out there and win on the road.”
After getting off to a horrible start the Lions have gone 9-1.
Defensive back Korey Banks said first place wasn't on anybody's mind when the team was still struggling for that first win.
“When we won that first one ... we released we are a good football team,” he said.
“Before you find out what kind of team you have, you have to go through controversy. We went through all the controversy you can possibly go through. Everything was going against us. We kept willing our way to get everyone on the same page. Guys started peaking and playing together.”
The Lions have been riding a wave for three months. Lulay doesn't want to see that crash in final regular-season game.
“This is the point of the season where you want to gain momentum,” he said. “You want to be playing your best football now. Going into the playoffs it's important for us to go out and play well.
“We are playing the two-time defending champions. We have to play a good football game.”
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