You continue to chase the dream of that championship.
A feeling of emptiness comes over you as reflect back on all the work that went into your season without the reward that was supposed to come with it.
When it’s all said and done this Saturday night at IG Field in Winnipeg, one team will be planning a trip to Hamilton to play for the CFL’s ultimate prize in the Grey Cup.
The other will be wondering what went wrong.
That’s the best way to summarise the matchup between the B.C. Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in this year’s Western Final.
So where will this game be won or lost?
Well, we have some ideas.
THE BRADY BUNCH
Blue Bomber running back Brady Oliveira has had a monster season with over 2,000 total yards of offense, and along with quarterback Zack Collaros, presents a two-headed monster that probably has Lions defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips losing sleep.
The fact of the matter is that if the Lions are to have any chance of winning this football game, containing Oliviera will be paramount.
The Lions can ill afford for Collaros to be in 2nd and short situations, so stopping Oliveira on first downs will be critical.
The Winnipeg offensive line may not be as athletic as they were two or three years ago but they still work well in confined spaces.
Simply put, the Bombers o-line would prefer to play the game in a phone booth. The Lions want to play this game in space, so isolating Bomber linemen will be a key.
No Ben Hladik (shin) means Josh Woods moves inside with no real impact being felt there as Woods actually prefers playing inside and was very effective against Calgary in recording 11 tackles. Hladik’s absence, however, means that Ryder Varga and Bo Lokombo will have to pick up the slack taking over Woods’ outside spot.
LISTEN TO DAD
Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was lights out against the Calgary Stampeders in last week’s 41-30 semi-final win at BC Place.
Although many will look at his passing stats, it’s actually Adams’ legs that will be a big key for the Lions offense.
Every week, Adams Jr. talks to his dad – Vernon Adams Sr. – who always tells his son that he’s a more dangerous quarterback when he runs the ball. In fact, Adams Sr. wants his son to run for one first down each quarter – which junior actually did last week.
Adams has told us that if his receivers aren’t open, he will take off. That in turn makes him a much more dangerous quarterback.
The ability to run and escape pressure will take the edge out of a defensive line. It will also create problems for whatever defence that Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall will dial up.
If you are in man coverage, the linebackers and the secondary will be running downfield covering receivers with their backs towards the line of scrimmage. That means Adams can take off without impunity for the first few yards if he decides to do so.
Sit back in zone – like Calgary did for the most part -and Adams will pick you apart if he’s on.
The key to all of this is the Lions offensive line holding up the Bombers when they rush four. If the Bombers can’t get there with four and are forced to call blitzes, it should be to B.C.’s advantage.
STOP WITH THE NEGATIVITY
Lions head coach Rick Campbell talks about it every week. Keep the negative plays to a minimum.
That means minimizing penalties and turnovers.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a very good football team and they don’t need any help via turnovers or penalties that provide them with instant field position and momentum.
The Lions can ill afford to lose their poise and take a selfish penalty at an inopportune time that allows Winnipeg to sustain a drive or take a penalty that kills one of their own drives.
Three times against Calgary, the Lions were off the field against the Stampeder offence only to incur penalties that allowed the drive to continue. The end result was Calgary scoring 16 points off of drives in which they should have punted.
The Bombers are simply too good of a team to be giving second chances to.
KEEP YOUR POISE BOYS
It’s a vastly underrated characteristic of a championship team and that is the ability to maintain your poise through adversity.
The Lions will get knocked down on Saturday. It’s how they react to those knockdowns that will determine their fate.
The Bombers will make big plays but the Lions better be able to rebound and rebound quickly if they are to win this game.
They cannot allow things to snowball like they did during their second visit to Winnipeg in which the Bombers scored early and often enroute to a 50-14 win over the Lions on August 3rd.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
IG Field is Winnipeg will be an intimidating environment to play in but the Lions feel confident that they will be able to deal with the crowd noise.
One of the reasons Campbell wanted his team to practice at BC Place Stadium this week was to get the feel of being on offense with the crowd noise at uncomfortable levels.
Thus, every time the Lions offense had their team session against the defence, BC Place Stadium felt like it had 50,000 people in it.
Campbell and the Lions hope it pays dividends on Saturday.
WEATHER OR NOT
Playing a game in Winnipeg in mid-November usually means packing a parka but the Lions just might be catching a break when it comes to the elements.
The forecast for Saturday’s 5:30pm local time kickoff is 0 Celsius with it dropping to -2 as the game progresses. Even better is that the wind won’t be a factor as the windchill is predicted to be -5.
The Lions also flew out a day early to get acclimatised to the weather and had a workout at IG Field on Friday as well.
Call me a homer but something tells me there’s an upset brewing. LIONS 28 BOMBERS 24
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.