In Vancouver, the B.C. Lions see themselves as “the monster that couldn’t be stopped.” Think of Mothra fluttering over downtown Tokyo and you get the picture.
And after watching the Lions demolish the Grey Cup defending champion Montreal Alouettes 43-1 on Saturday, the question rightly looms: can anyone in the CFL go Godzilla on the Lions?
Over the past 10 weeks, B.C. has lost only once. During that stretch, Travis Lulay has grown at quarterback, Andrew Harris has emerged at running back and the Lions’ defence has stomped the daylights out of opposing forces. It’s been near catastrophic annihilation, which is why centre Angus Reid used the “monster” parallel to describe what’s been happening on the West Coast.
There’s also this to consider: the Lions are ideally positioned by getting to play the Western Final at home followed by the 99th Grey Cup at B.C. Place. They could even become the first team since the 1994 Lions to win a Grey Cup on home field, which brings us back to the original query: can anyone beat B.C.?
The winner of the Edmonton Eskimos-Calgary Stampeders West Division semi-final will get the first shot. The Alberta rivals always provide for a combative mix and this encounter is no different. The Eskimos won the season series over Calgary while the Stampeders own the best road record in the league. The Eskimos boast an array of offensive talent while the Stampeders have a rookie starter at quarterback (Drew Tate) and a refuse-to-buckle defence that has helped the Stampeders win their past three games in a row.
“I like the way we’ve been playing,” said defensive ace Charleston Hughes, who had seven sacks, an interception, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown this season. “There has been a lot of [personnel]shuffling but it’s made room for other people to show up and it’s shown our depth. People are making plays.”
If one Stampeder needs to make more plays than any other it’s Tate, who was up and down yet ultimately victorious Saturday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Asked if he was worried about Tate succumbing to playoff jitters, Calgary head coach John Hufnagel replied with full confidence Sunday: “I don’t think there s any more pressure on Drew than there has been over the last three weeks. I think he’s a lot more comfortable starting his fourth game.”
The Eskimos are content, too, having just watched receiver Adarius Bowman run wild against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, catching 10 passes for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bowman’s size and speed, next to Fred Stamps and the ground-pounding Jerome Messam, will push Calgary to its limits.
“At this point, they’re a well-balanced team,” Hughes said of Edmonton. “If you key on the run, they can pass just as good. They’re a hard team to read.”
Speaking of hard to read, the East Division is like War and Peace written in code. The Alouettes have hit the wall. They’ve lost three in a row by a combined score of 101-53. Worse than that, they’ve been losing bodies. When left side offensive tackle, Josh Bourke was scratched for the season, Montreal moved right tackle Jeff Perrett to Bourke’s spot and saw B.C. crush Perrett and chase quarterback Anthony Calvillo. It was not for the squeamish.
Meanwhile, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal’s semi-final foe, enter the postseason having lost to bottom dwellers Saskatchewan and the Toronto Argonauts. Worse still, the Ticats have gone from one quarterback (Kevin Glenn) to using three quarterbacks (Glenn, Quinton Porter and Jason Boltus). Awaiting the Hamilton-Montreal survivor is a trip to Winnipeg and, maybe, a trip further west to the monster’s lair.
Oh sure, anything can happen. But right now, the Lions look unbeatable while everyone else looks ready to be stepped on.