B.C. Lions looking to make noise of their own in front of raucous Regina crowd

Come Friday, the B.C. Lions will be aiming for their first win since 2016 over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium.

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Ryan Phillips is a fan of Saskatchewan Roughriders’ fans.

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“It’s the best environment to play in as an opponent,” the B.C. Lions’ defensive coordinator said Wednesday of Mosaic Stadium in Regina, where his team will face the Roughriders on Friday with undoubtedly a raucous home team crowd looking on.

“I love it. I always look forward to it on my calendar. Even from a coaching standpoint, I still get the jitters when I walk out (onto the field). I even stop for a minute and look around and say, ‘This is what it’s like.’ I enjoy being there. I enjoy their fans. They back their team.” 

A win over Saskatchewan (4-3) will give the Lions (4-1) their first 5-1 start to a CFL season since 2007, a year in which they went 14-3-1 and wound up losing in the West Division Final. The Lions were 5-9 overall last season, missing the playoffs. They were 5-13 in 2019, again not qualifying for the post-season.

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A win over Saskatchewan will also end an eight-game losing streak overall for B.C. against the Riders. Over that span, the Leos have lost four straight games at Mosaic, with B.C.’s last win in Saskatchewan coming Oct. 29, 2016, when they scored a 24-6 triumph. 



B.C. Lions vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders

6 p.m., Mosaic Stadium. TV: TSN. Radio: AM 730.

Part of why Saskatchewan is tough at home is that, according to CFL head statistician Steve Daniel, the Roughriders lead the league in attendance dating to 2014, drawing 30,900 per game in that span.

Another home stat for Saskatchewan? Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who missed last week with COVID-19 and knee issues, Is expected to start for the Riders against B.C. and is 15-3 at home as a starter over his career. He’s 25-10 overall.

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Saskatchewan is 16-4 at home since the start of the 2019 season.

“I love it there. I wish every stadium in the CFL would be like that,” Lions defensive lineman David Menard, 32, who’s in his seventh year as a Lion and eighth in the CFL, said of Mosaic. “They’ve got great fans. It’s a hostile environment. You have to love it. If it gets to you, it’s going to be negative. You have to enjoy it.”

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Phillips was a defensive back for B.C. for 12 seasons, and insists that some of his best games as a player came in Saskatchewan because of the atmosphere. He says there are Lions newcomers like defensive back Quincy Mauger, who played in front of big crowds with the University of Georgia, who will be accustomed to what Mosaic brings. He says there are others who will experience that kind of environment for the very first time come Friday.

“I tell them that they’ll either thrive in it or they’ll have to take a deep breath and give themselves a chance to relax,” Phillips said. “It’s that different. It is an ‘X’ factor. There are no easy games there. I don’t care if they’ve won three games and we’re playing them in the 15th week of the season. It doesn’t matter. They’ll have the crowd behind them and they’ll put their best foot forward.

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“They’ve always been a fighting, competitive team and I’ve never known them to be anything different. I expect them, regardless of injuries or anything they’ve got going on, to be competitive. We have to bring our ‘A’ game or we’ll end up on the wrong side of the results.”

Saskatchewan’s game last week against the Toronto Argonauts had to be pushed from Saturday to Sunday due to a COVID outbreak. They had 14 players on the one-game injured list for the contest.

Saskatchewan coach Craig Dickenson told the Regina Leader-Post on Tuesday that the team was getting players back, although he didn’t get into exact numbers. Fajardo practised Tuesday and said he expects to play against the Lions. 

“If it’s up to me, I’m playing,” he was quoted as saying in The Leader-Post.

The Lions and the Riders play three times this regular season and all the games come over a 29-day span. B.C. is at Saskatchewan again Aug. 19 and then hosts the Roughriders on Aug. 26.

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