B.C. Lions visit to Saskatchewan Roughriders a ‘playoff dress rehearsal’: coach

A win or tie for Saskatchewan on Saturday would also guarantee the team home-field advantage

B.C. Lions coach Wally Buono knows his club will be heading into a ”tough environment” when they visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders this weekend.

“You’re on the road. You know it’s going to be really loud, they’re going to be really aggressive. So it’s a fun game,” Buono said after practice on Thursday.

Both the Riders (11-6) and Lions (9-7) have already earned playoff spots, but the final two weeks of the regular season could sway the standings.

A win or tie for Saskatchewan on Saturday would also guarantee the team home-field advantage.

The intensity of the Lions-Riders matchup may be a hint at what’s to come, Buono said.

“I’ve already sold this game as a dress rehearsal for the playoffs,” he said, noting that the his squad may well face a tough road game to kick off the post season.

The Riders are the only team the Lions have yet to win against this year, and the only squad that has beat them in Vancouver.

The two teams met on Aug. 25, when Saskatchewan snatched a 24-21 win.

Buono said after that game that he may not have the right players to win. The Lions have only dropped one game since.

The team has been playing with playoff-level intensity for the last seven or eight weeks, said quarterback Travis Lulay.

“Every game has felt like it’s the biggest game of the year. So that works in our favour in terms of preparing for a high-pressure game,” he said.

Saskatchewan’s known to get between the quarterback and the ball, with defensive lineman Charleston Hughes leading the league with 15 sacks.

Hughes missed last week’s game after he was charged on Oct. 11 with impaired driving and failing to supply a breath sample for analysis. He told reporters this week that he’s “embarrassed” by the situation and trying to keep his “mind in the right place.”

Hughes is due in court on the charges on Wednesday, but could be back in the lineup this weekend.

Lulay said the Lions are ready for the Riders’ defence.

“You respect their pass rushers, you respect their guys, but you don’t think about the stats,” he said. ”We just have to be consistently balanced offensively to minimize those sack opportunities. And I just have to be decisive and find ways to move and slide when I need to.”

Meanwhile, B.C.’s Shawn Lemon said the Lions defensive crew is focused on playing fast-assignment football and making Riders quarterback Zach Collaros uncomfortable.

“They’re a very good team. They’ve been winning their past few games. They’re a playoff team so I think it’s a good test for us,” said the defensive lineman.

The Riders will have their hands full when it comes to the Lions defence, said Saskatchewan coach Chris Jones.

The defenders make impact plays and are tough to block, he said.

“We just need to handle our business this week and play a very good B.C. team,” Jones said.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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