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Lions to face Riders in West Final for the third time in four years
SURREY, B.C. – Facing the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL West final has almost become a tradition for the B.C. Lions.
For the third time in four years the Lions will battle the Riders Sunday with a trip to the Grey Cup on the line.
“It’s not by chance the two best teams in the West are going to face off,” Wally Buono, the coach and general manager of the defending Grey Cup champion Lions, said Monday.
“We have a history with the Riders. They are going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”
The Lions will host their fourth consecutive West Final on Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET). Over 43,000 tickets have already been sold for the game at B.C. Place Stadium.
Last year the Lions embarrassed Saskatchewan 45-18 in the West final. B.C. then defeated Montreal 25-14 in the Grey Cup in Winnipeg.
In 2004, the Lions advanced to the Grey Cup with a 27-25 win in overtime after Saskatchewan kicker Paul McCallum missed a field goal in extra time. The Lions lost 27-19 to Toronto in the championship game.
Quarterback Jarious Jackson, who began the season third on the B.C. depth chart, is expected to start against Saskatchewan. Bruising slotback Jason Clermont, who has been nursing a sore shoulder, will also play.
“Saskatchewan is an excellent football team,” said Buono. “The clubs are evenly matched. They are both well rounded as far as they are good on offence, they have very good defences and they are good on special teams. They are both well coached. ”
B.C.’s 14-3-1 record was the best in the league. It was the first time the Lions won 14 games in a season.
Saskatchewan finished second in the West with a 12-6-0 record. The Riders defeated Calgary 26-24 in the West semi-final Sunday in Saskatchewan’s first home playoff game since 1988.
“Their offensive schemes were really good,” said Clermont, who was third in the league this season with 86 catches for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns. “Calgary did have a chance to win that game a few times.
“We’ll look at some of the things they did defensively and we’re pretty optimistic on what we can do with the game plan.”
The Lions won two of the three games they played against Saskatchewan this year, outscoring them 88-67.
There also has been bad blood between the teams all season.
Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson suffered a concussion in a July 13 game after a hit by Rider defensive end Fred Perry. Dickenson didn’t play again until the second last game of the season and Buono wanted Perry disciplined. The CFL investigated but ruled the hit was legal.
A melee broke out in a Sept. 22 match resulting in Lions guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli being suspended for one game while tackle Rob Murphy and receiver Cory Rodgers both were fined.
Clermont said emotions run high when the teams meet.
“They’ve been meaningful games we’ve played against them,” said the Regina native. “They play us tough and it’s always been physical.
“There are professionals on both sides with a lot of pride. You couldn’t have scripted a better West Final.”
The Lions could be without offensive lineman Jason Jimenez Sunday.
The CFL suspended the right tackle for one game Monday for a hit on Calgary Stampeder defensive lineman Anthony Gargiulo in the final game of the regular season.
Jimenez can appeal the suspension.