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Blue Bombers, Lions Aim to Stay Unbeaten in West Division Clash

June 22, 2023 6:56 AM | The Canadian Press

By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

Drew Wolitarsky - Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Drew Wolitarsky (82) gets tackled by BC Lions’ T.J. Lee (6) and Jordan Williams (21) during the second half of CFL western final action in Winnipeg, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Veteran receiver Drew Wolitarsky is confident his Winnipeg Blue Bombers won’t be shut out by the visiting B.C. Lions on Thursday.

The Lions blanked the Edmonton Elks 22-0 last week en route to a 2-0 season start, but Winnipeg is also 2-0 scoring a combined 87 points in those two wins.

“We watched the game with Edmonton and it really comes down to execution, and Edmonton didn’t execute,” Wolitarsky said Wednesday at Winnipeg’s IG Field.

“Some of the things that they let happen on the edges and not blocking for their guys and just sloppy play, that’s something we don’t really tolerate here and that’s just not the standard here.

“We’re going to step on the field every time and we’re going to expect ourselves to score. That’s just our mentality. That’s our standard.”

Winnipeg also has history on its side at IG Field.

The Blue Bombers haven’t lost at home to a West Division team since falling to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in September 2018.

That stretch includes the CFL West Division final victory over the Lions last season.

“Wow, that’s amazing by Winnipeg. By the fans, too,” Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. said when told that statistic upon arrival at the stadium Wednesday.

“That’s a lot to the fans. That crowd noise, man, it helps, you know. We practised some silent counts so, hopefully, it helps us. Hopefully, we can come out here and get a win.”

B.C. has made some changes since last year’s playoff loss to Winnipeg, and most notably starting Adams at quarterback instead of him backing up Nathan Rourke, who left for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Lions have outscored their opponents 47-15, including a 25-15 win over Calgary, in two straight wins to start the season.

Bombers veteran linebacker Adam Bighill was impressed by B.C.’s shutout of Edmonton last week, but says the Elks are “trying to find themselves” this year, so that factored into the final score.

“It’s hard to put a zero up in this league,” Bighill said. “It’s a combination of B.C.’s offence, defence and special teams all working together to keep them really on that other half of the field.”

He sees Adams making efficient reads and looking confident under centre, so Winnipeg’s defence must make him uncomfortable.


“He’s been using his legs effectively extending plays and I think that’s always been one of his hallmarks,” Bighill said.

Bighill was fined an undisclosed amount Wednesday by the CFL for a high hit on Roughriders quarterback Shea Patterson last Friday.

Adams has completed 53 of 71 pass attempts for 624 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in two games.

Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros is 44-of-61 passing for five TDs and no picks.

The Lions will be without a key target for Adams.

Receiver Dominique Rhymes, who leads the league with three TD catches, is out with a foot injury. He’ll be replaced by Lucky Whitehead.

“It’s big,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said of Rhymes’ absence.

“He’s an important player, so it definitely will have an effect.

“At the same time, I’ve been proud of our guys the last couple years that we’ve had people get hurt … and we’re able to plug in and keep going.”

Winnipeg, which has given up 58 points in wins over Hamilton and Saskatchewan, will have a new defensive back in the lineup.

Rookie Abu Daramy-Swaray makes his CFL debut in place of Demerio Houston (out for non-injury reasons).

B.C. has a group of defensive backs who have played together for some time, which Collaros pointed to as one of the Lions’ strengths.

Veteran Lions defensive back Garry Peters, in his fifth year with B.C. and seventh in the CFL, said a key to beating the Bombers is containing Collaros.

“It starts on defence. Stop the run as always,” Peters said. “Keep Zach in the pocket.

“With Zach in the pocket he’s still dangerous, but not as dangerous as he is when he gets out of that pocket.

“He can make every throw — side arm over the top. He’s having a really great year so we’ve got to get some pressure on Zach.”


Thursday, IG FIELD

WAITING ON OLIVEIRA : Bombers starting running back Brady Oliveira will be a game-time decision because of what the club says is an injury to his thorax.

MILESTONE MOMENT: Collaros is set to make his 100th CFL career start Thursday. His record so far is 63-36, including victories in four Bomber contests against the Lions.

GOOD BEGINNING: The Lions will try to start the season 3-0 for a second straight year, which B.C. hasn’t done since 1994-95.

CP - The Canadian Press