Sunday, November 20, 2016
CFL WEST FINAL: CGY 42 BC 15
There wasn't even the possibility amidst their 42-15 beatdown at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday's CFL West final, not with the way the hosts ran roughshod over the Lions before the McMahon Stadium crowd of 32,115 to earn a berth in the Grey Cup.
Even in the CFL, a 32-0 deficit in the first half is too much to overcome.
"We knew that what we did against Winnipeg, we can't do that against a great team like Calgary. We didn't start off fast enough and they took it to us,'' said Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings, whose team erased a 19-point deficit against the Blue Bombers a week earlier.
"For whatever reason, we weren't as electrifying as always. Playing like that against a team that score like they can, it's going to be hard for you to win.''
Calgary will play the Ottawa Redblacks for the CFL championship next Sunday in Toronto.
The Stampeders clinched the West Division regular season crown on Thanksgiving and hadn't played a meaningful game since. Toss in the fact they hadn't even suited up for a game since before Halloween, and the possibility of being a rusty squad loomed large.
Those thoughts were alleviated on their first drive. After Roy Finch returned the opening kickoff 46 yards, Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell promptly marched the team to the end zone, a drive capped off by Lamar Durant's three-yard scamper.
The Lions had no response and watched their season slip away before even having a chance to regroup in the locker-room at halftime.
"There's lots of things, some of them you can't repeat but it's the game,'' Lions head coach Wally Buono said when asked what was going through his mind during the first half. "I've been in the game 100 years and I've seen this 100 times.
"I've been on the other side when it's been good and I've been on this side when it's bad. Once it starts rolling, you've got to break the momentum. In the first half, we couldn't break the momentum.''
Buono's squad couldn't find a spark, either, whether it was on offence or defence against a Calgary team which led the league with a 16-1-1 mark in the regular season.
"You've got to give credit where credit is due. They've won that many games for a reason,'' said Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips amidst a sombre locker-room. "The things we were supposed to do to eliminate some of their big plays and minimize some of their big plays, we didn't execute in the first half and it showed up on the scoreboard.''
Jennings completed 17-of-24 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown, but the only points came late in the contest when the result was determined.
Travis Lulay took the helm to start the second half and engineered a touchdown drive on his first possession, but an interception toss in the Calgary end zone late in the third quarter spelled the end of his outing.
"It was important for us to try to get Jonathon back in the game, make sure he didn't leave 2016 with the bad taste of the first half in his mouth,'' Buono said of his decision to give the controls back to Jennings.
That said, the end result isn't much to savour.
"We probably accomplished a lot more than people thought we could, but for me, I still feel disappointed,'' Buono said. "My goal was to be in Toronto and sip out of the Cup, and that didn't happen. Maybe that was unrealistic, but, if your dreams aren't big, they're not really your dreams.''
(The Canadian Press)