REGINA - The CFL pre-season schedule carries significant meaning to veteran players, too.
Just ask the handful of seasoned vets who stole the show from the eager-to-please newcomers and rookies on Saturday in the B.C. Lions' 28-16 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"Yeah, pre-season is an opportunity for the young guys to get out there, but it's just as important for us (veterans) to get some things ironed out,'' said Shawn Gore, who caught two passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. "We haven't played a football game in almost six months, so there are a lot of things we still need to do to get back on the same page.''
Gore, a seven-year veteran, found himself wide open on the Riders' goal line and hauled in a 24-yard pass from Jonathon Jennings for the game's first touchdown. Jeremiah Johnson tacked on a two-point convert to push B.C.'s lead to 11-6 late in the second quarter.
Jennings' night wrapped up with the second-year quarterback completing two of five attempts for a team-high 70 yards.
On the ensuing Saskatchewan possession, it was a Lions defensive stalwart, Ronnie Yell, who stepped up. He snagged an errant pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage and raced 50 yards for the second B.C. touchdown of the first half.
Richie Leone kicked two first-half field goals and the Lions took an 18-6 advantage into halftime.
"You still have to approach these games as if it was the regular season,'' Gore said. "You need to get your mind right. You need to get back into your routine. You need to set yourself up in the right way because in two weeks time it's all real.''
After an extended halftime break in which the power was knocked out at the stadium for more than an hour, play resumed and the Lions added to their lead.
Travis Lulay, now in his eighth year in the CFL, played the entire second quarter for the Lions. He engineered a pair of drives that were capped with Leone field goals from 42 yards and 21 yards, respectively.
Lulay hooked up with receiver Brian Burnham on a long pass-and-run play for a touchdown, but it was called back on a penalty.
For the Riders, the Chris Jones era did not get off to a winning start. The Riders' new head coach and general manager joined the club in the off-season after he guided the Edmonton Eskimos to a Grey Cup championship in 2015.
He's faced with rebuilding a team that finished 3-15 last season, and one player to build around on defence is linebacker Greg Jones.
Jones made his presence felt for Saskatchewan on defence and on special teams. The former Toronto Argonaut will be a steadying influence on the Riders' defence, as the team will see an entirely new cast in its secondary. The front seven will see a handful of new faces well.
"When you don't approach these games the same as you would a regular season game, that's when bad things happen,'' Greg Jones said after he recorded three tackles and one quarterback knockdown. "It being my first time playing with this group of guys and in front of this coaching staff, I wanted to make sure I put on the best show I could today.
"You always have something to prove because it's a new year.''
Veteran receiver Clarence Denmark hauled in a 54-yard pass from quarterback Brett Smith for the Riders' only touchdown of the night. That scoring play came early in the fourth quarter, one that brought the Riders within eight at 24-16.
Saskatchewan's new head coach liked what he saw from his young team despite the loss. The obvious youth - eight of Saskatchewan's 14 defensive backs that dressed for Saturday's game are first-year pros - played well in Chris Jones's eyes.
"When I went around the room and asked the question if this was their first CFL game I think more than three quarters of the guys put their hands up,'' said Chris Jones.
"We're going to be a good football team. Don't get it twisted on that score tonight. They had five first downs in the half, so minus a play here or there, that's a pretty good game defensively.''
Tyler Crapinga converted two of his three field goal attempts on Saturday. He missed a 48-yard attempt.
Terrance Cobb led the Riders with 58 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The Lions will host the Calgary Stampeders on Friday in their second pre-season contest, while the Riders will travel to take on the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.
(The Canadian Press/Craig Slater)
|Jones after Saturday's game|
CHRIS JONES POSTGAME QUOTES
- Unfortunately we have to do the deed in the morning - cut some guys and get down. Once you start trimming your roster down, things start zoning in a little bit. There's not so many people in the room. All of a sudden the focus starts to get there a little more.
- It's never good when you lose a football game. As far as evaluation's concerned, I'm certainly glad we were able to get the second half in and get enough plays to where we can evaluate some of the B and C group guys.
- I thought, when that power went out, and they said it was a transformer, my Dad's an electrician and I was like, 'Man, that might take awhile'. Somebody had to work pretty hard to get that back up I'm sure.
- Neither one (QBs Brett Smith and B.J. Coleman) played very well. Very disappointed. They played a poor football game. It's their first time in this offense and I fully expect them to come back with their nose to the grindstone and they'll play better next week.
- When you look at one bright spot offensively, Terrance Cobb looked like he knew what to do with the football. He turned his headgear and shoulder pads north and south and he pushed the pile. I thought that he looked like a pro running back.
- If you noticed what we did on offense, the first two series we left the A group OL and receivers and did the same thing with the next QB so we didn't get an unfair evaluation of one. We tried to give them the same opportunity.
- You have some guys that you know that aren't going to figure into your plans unfortunately. Some people are going to be able to play their way onto our football team and that's what I have to go hunt tonight; guys that played better than what they practiced. You got guys that show up at practice and play great but then don't show up in games, and vice versa.
- I didn't think the delay was very difficult at all. You don't really think about it but you've got a bunch of young players. The other day I asked for a show of hands of who's a rookie in the CFL and it was about 3/4 of the team. The good thing that we saw was you didn't see a lot of illegal procedures and time counts, and things of that nature. That was encouraging. But we can't hold, that type of thing, to put us in a hole. It doesn't matter if it's Darian Durant or John Elway playing quarterback - if you start out 1st-and-20, you're probably not going to have a lot of successful drives. Neither one of our QBs lit it up tonight but when it's 1st-and-20, it's tough.
- We'll evaluate how much Darian will play next week at a later time. We got so much water under the bridge until that decision's gonna be made. He's looked really good so far in scrimmage and practices. He's looked very crisp, in great shape, and we just gotta continue to work offensively.
- We came out of the gate real strong, and Rob Bagg was a big part of that. He's certainly a leader and the O-line guys in the middle are all leaders, and not to mention Darian. It's a good group. We're gonna be a good football team. Don't let the score tonight get twisted. You know they had five first downs in the first half. Minus a play or two here or there, that's a pretty game defensively and offensively we're not always going to have three turnovers and five, six holds. When we started cleaning that stuff up, we're going to be a good football team.
RIDER GAME LEADERS:
Passing - Brett Smith (106 yards)
Rushing - Terrance Cobb (58 yards)
Receiving - Clarence Denmark (66 yards)
Punting - Quinn Van Gylswyk (174 yards)
Tackles - Tyree Hollins, Samuel Eguavoen (3)
Sacks - Shawn Lemon, Tyree Hollins (1)
Forced Fumbles - Rollins Stallworth (1)
Knockdowns - Derrius Brooks, Tevaughn Campbell, Tyree Hollins, Markus White (1)