B.C. Lions know they need to find more consistency on defence

By The Canadian Press
July 17, 2018 - 2:15am

SURREY, B.C. — There was a bit of divine intervention at play in the B.C. Lions' come-from-behind win last weekend, but the team can't count on that happening every week, says coach Wally Buono.

"The Good Lord blessed us on Saturday. I don't think he's going to be doing that every week," Buono said this week.

Instead, the Lions need focus and consistency to build on the win and rack up more victories going forward, according to some key members of the team.

B.C. (2-2) was down 17-0 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-3) at halftime Saturday, but rallied to win 20-17, thanks in large part to a trio of interceptions and two huge third-and-short stops.

Lions defensive end Odell Willis, who had two sacks in Saturday's matchup (one on a third-and-short), said the team didn't make any tactical or lineup changes at halftime.

"We just focused in on what the game plan was and we executed," said Willis, whose team is preparing for a trip to Ottawa to face the Redblacks on Friday night.

"It's just all about focus. And when you focus in a little bit harder on what you have to do, the job gets done."

This is Willis' first season with the Lions, following five years in Edmonton, plus stints in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Calgary. He was even a member of the Redblacks for mere minutes after the Eskimos shipped him to Ottawa in February. The Lions acquired Willis in another trade that same day.

The two-time Grey Cup champ said he's doing everything he can to help the Lions win and isn't having trouble transitioning to his new team.

"It's the same Xs and Os. The only thing that's different is that teams just draw the lines different," he said.

However, the Lions defence will face a new test this week as they'll be without star linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who was placed on the six-game injured list on Tuesday. Elimimian made the other third-and-short stop against Winnipeg.

Before news of the injury broke, Elimimian said he hopes younger members of the team learned a lesson from the comeback.

"Things can change really fast, as we found out on Saturday night. If there's a minute left, you're still in it," said Elimimian.

Elimimian said the Lions made mistakes in Saturday's game, especially in the first half, but the defence was resilient.

"There's obviously some things we can improve, things we can get better at. And just encouraging the guys that, you know, we play four quarters of solid football, good things are going to happen," he said.

Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris has thrown for 915 yards in four games this season, putting him fourth in the league, while Ottawa running back William Powell has rushed for 372, third-best in the CFL.

Meanwhile, the Lions' top rushing threat, former Redblack Jeremiah Johnson, is doubtful for Friday's game because of an ankle injury.

The Redblacks take on a Lions team giving up 27.3 points per game, the second-worst average in the CFL.

"They want to move the ball. They get a lot of plays in. For us, it's all about understanding the situation, playing fast and playing physical," Elimimian said.

He added the Lions will also need to eliminate some mistakes, especially those that lead to big plays, and avoid taking unnecessary penalties and missing tackles.

"We haven't been too good so far this year," Elimimian said. "But with new pieces, things are to be expected. Just keep improving, right?"


Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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