Lions win West final in a rout
A healthy and hungry Dave Dickenson will have a third chance to complete what he started but couldn’t finish against the Montreal Alouettes earlier this season.
The B.C. Lions quarterback shredded Saskatchewan’s defence for 273 yards through the air and tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Paris Jackson on the way to a 45-18 victory over the visiting Roughriders in Sunday’s CFL West final.
“We feel like it’s our year. We feel we are the best team,” Dickenson said. “You have to finish it. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win [the Grey Cup].”
Dickenson will lead the Lions into the 94th Canadian Football League championship on Nov. 19 in Winnipeg against Montreal, 33-24 winners over the Toronto Argonauts in the East final earlier on Sunday.
It will mark B.C.’s second Grey Cup appearance in the last three years and second versus the Alouettes in league history.
The Lions upset Montreal 28-26 in the 2000 championship at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
This season, B.C. dominated the East champions, posting a 2-0 record and outscoring the Alouettes 84-33. However, Dickenson was forced to leave both contests early due to injury.
But he made an impression, connecting on 28 of 37 passes for 468 yards and three touchdowns in a combined five quarters of work.
On Sunday, Dickenson completed 27 of 37 pass attempts, including 19 in a 29-point first half.
The veteran CFLer was masterful at avoiding a Roughriders front four that caused havoc for Calgary quarterback Henry Burris in the West semifinal a week ago.
A scrambling Dickenson amassed 211 yards and three touchdown passes in the first half alone and let running back Joe Smith and a swarming Lions defence do the rest.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Saskatchewan coach Danny Barrett said. “I thought Jackson and [Lions slotback Jason] Clermont, they stepped up their play well today. I thought Dave threw the ball outstanding.”
Smith added a pair of majors on a five-yard reception and six-yard run, while former Roughriders kicker Paul McCallum booted five field goals to tie Lui Passaglia for the club playoff record.
A Lions defence that led the league with 59 sacks this season brought quarterback Kerry Joseph down five times and made him hurry throws.
The ear-piercing noise of 50,084 fans at B.C. Place Stadium also resulted in Saskatchewan taking several time-count and procedure penalties.
Down and seemingly out, the Riders awoke late in the third quarterback and cut into a 32-4 B.C. advantage with two touchdowns.
After the visitors converted a third-and-five near midfield, running back Kenton Keith hooked up with Joseph on a 39-yard pass-and-run to make it 32-11.
Shortly thereafter, Saskatchewan defensive back Davin Bush forced a fumble by Geroy Simon ó the CFL’s top receiver in 2006 ó that was recovered by linebacker Jackie Mitchell.
A few plays and a Dante Marsh pass interference call later and Keith made it a two-touchdown game with a four-yard plunge.
Controlled the clock
Undaunted, Dickenson controlled the clock and put McCallum in position to increase the margin with field goals of 18 and 41 yards in the fourth quarter.
McCallum, who signed with the Lions as a free agent last winter, was the goat of the 2004 West final at B.C. Place Stadium when he missed two field goals, including an 18-yarder in overtime, in a 27-25 B.C. triumph over the Roughriders.
The Lions broke Sunday’s game open in the first 30 minutes, scoring 26 unanswered points after Saskatchewan rookie kicker Luca Congi connected on a 40-yard field goal to answer McCallum’s 21-yarder early in the first quarter.
With the Riders smothering Simon, Dickenson spread the wealth or kept the ball himself.
He exposed Saskatchewan rookie James Johnson on numerous occasions and made the defensive back pay at both ends of the second quarter.
With the game tied 3-3, Dickenson eluded pressure and found the outstretched hands of Jackson, who outran Johnson and hauled in a 14-yard pass deep in the end zone to cap an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
“We have different receivers that can do different things,” said Jackson, who finished the game with five catches for 66 yards. “I just try and do what I can do.”
With 21 seconds left in the half, Jackson shrugged off double coverage from Bush and Johnson to haul in a 35-yard pass to give B.C. a 29-3 lead.
“Oh well, we’ll get ’em next year!!”
Lions win West final in a rout