The B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes played the first game in CFL history to decide first place in both the East and West divisions Saturday.
But it wasn’t much of a contest.
The Lions annihilated the Alouettes 43-1 before 35,454 at B.C. Place Stadium, and clinched their first West Division title since 2007. B.C. will get a first-round bye when the CFL playoffs begin next weekend, and wait for the winner of a western semi-final between the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders.
The victory also means that the Lions are just one home victory away from advancing to the 99th Grey Cup game on Nov. 27 in Vancouver. B.C. was the last CFL team to win the championships on home turf in 1994.
The Alouettes, meanwhile, squandered an opportunity to win their fourth consecutive East Division crown and fell to second place. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-8) take top billing because they hold a tiebreaking advantage over the Als (10-8).
In the CFL semi-finals next Sunday, Montreal will play host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the Olympic Stadium (1 p.m. ET), while the Battle of Alberta will follow from Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium (4:30 p.m. ET).
B.C., Edmonton and Calgary all finished with 11-7 records in the West, but the Lions took first place, and the Eskimos second, based on head-to-head record during the regular season. The Lions began the season 0-5, but completed a worst-to-first renaissance by winning 11 of their last 13 games, including eight in a row.
“It was huge mental effort, and that was the hardest part of that,” quarterback Travis Lulay said. “Everyone is questioning what you’re doing and rightfully so because you are 0-5. For the guys to be able to believe in what we were doing, you’ve got to tip your hat to the coaching staff and the leaders on this team.”
B.C. pounced on Montreal after allowing a punt single on the opening possession, ending the game efficiently with an onslaught from both sides of the ball. The Leos scored 43 straight points by dominating the line of scrimmage on defence, and executed their offence with precision and ease.
About the only thing that went wrong was an minor injury to Lulay, who took a needless hit from Als linebacker Chip Cox early in the fourth quarter with the score 37-1. There was little reason for Lulay to be in the game with the score so lopsided, but head coach Wally Buono defended his decision by saying that his quarterback wanted to stay in the game.
“This is football,” Buono said. “It’s not matter of what the score is...you want to keep pedal to the metal.”
Lulay finished with 280 passing yards and four touchdowns, putting a punctuation mark on his candidacy for the CFL’s most outstanding player award in a head-to-head showdown with Calvillo. He said he suffered a charley horse on his left thigh, and will be able to play in West final on Nov. 20.
“Fortunately, I feel good about recovery,” Lulay said. “It is going to be sore for a couple of days, but the extra week off is going to be helpful.”
Lulay went seven-for-seven on B.C.’s opening drive, which culminated with an 11-yard touchdown catch by Andrew Harris. The Lions running back would make it 14-0 on the next possession with a 33-yard touchdown reception, and he had a third touchdown grab on the first drive of the third quarter to make it 31-1 for B.C.
Shawn Gore also had a touchdown catch, the first of his CFL career, on a seven-yard pass midway through the second quarter.
The Alouettes were anemic on offence and went into the half trailing 24-1. That was due to an overwhelmed offensive line that could not block B.C.’s defensive front.
Defensive end Brent Johnson, who will retire after this season following a brilliant 11-year career, had two sacks while subbing for injured starter Keron Williams.
Calvillo, sacked four times, was yanked with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, a mercy pull from head coach Marc Trestman. The leading passer in professional football history was replaced by Adrian McPherson after completing just nine of 17 passes for 63 yards.
“We’ve had three opportunities in the last three weeks [to win the East]..and today we didn’t give ourselves a chance at all,” Calvillo said. “It was embarrassing.”