For the BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders, return to play following the CFL’s one-year hiatus may not have been worth the wait.
The two longtime West Division rivals enter Thursday night’s matchup at McMahon Stadium in identical situations, as both aim to bounce back from tough opening-week losses.
Calgary’s 23-20 defeat to visiting Toronto last Saturday looms particularly painful, as the Argonauts scored 11 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to forge ahead on Boris Bede’s 32-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining. Toronto’s Shaq Richardson then intercepted Bo Levi Mitchell on the ensuing play from scrimmage to seal the comeback win.
The late turnover capped a frustrating and inefficient night for the Stampeders’ offence, which moved inside Toronto’s 20-yard line three times but wound up settling for Rene Paredes field goals on each occasion.
“I felt like we were in charge of that game, but we gave it away with some costly mistakes and they took it,” Calgary coach Dave Dickenson remarked. “(Toronto) made all the plays in the last eight minutes and it was an unfortunate loss.”
The Lions, on the other hand, were done in by a massive early deficit in their 33-29 loss at Saskatchewan last Friday. BC fell behind 31-0 in the first half in its first outing under new coach Rick Campbell, though the Lions fought back to make it a one-score game before a failed onside kick and a late Roughriders interception ultimately thwarted the comeback effort.
BC started rookie Nathan Rourke at quarterback with veteran Michael Reilly dealing with a right elbow injury, and Campbell told reporters they’ll likely do the same this week.
“Our mindset is we’re planning on Nathan to be the guy because we can’t count on Michael’s situation right now,” Campbell said during Monday’s news conference. “But that does not mean Michael is ruled out.”
Reilly did replace Rourke at halftime against Saskatchewan and completed 17 of 24 attempts for 203 yards and a touchdown to spark the Lions’ rally. The two-time Grey Cup champion was removed late in the game, however, when his elbow began acting up.
“As we were going through the game I was diminishing more and more until it got to the point where I was feeling like, ‘This is not going to be a good situation again because I will probably throw it straight to the other team’,” Reilly said.
Rourke, the first Canadian quarterback to start a team’s opener in CFL history, threw for 194 yards on 10-of-18 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut.
Calgary, which hasn’t started 0-2 since 2009, won both of its two 2019 meetings with the Lions and including the postseason, is 8-1 in its last nine games against BC at McMahon Stadium. The Lions’ lone victory in that stretch was a 26-21 win in October 2018.