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‘No pressure at all’: Lions locked in for home opener against Calgary

Stampeders the focus as 50 Cent set rock Vancouver crowd
B.C. Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) throws the ball during first half CFL action against the Toronto Argonauts, in Toronto, on Sunday, June 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Rick Campbell wants his B.C. Lions to be locked in on Saturday, a task that will require tuning out a unique distraction — a 50 Cent concert.

The rapper behind hits “In da Club” and “Just a Lil Bit” will take the stage at B.C. Place before the Lions (0-1) host the Calgary Stampeders (1-0) in their first home game of the CFL season. More than 51,000 people are expected to take in the show, but the Lions’ players won’t be among them.

“No, we’re not going to be out there partying,” said Campbell, the team’s head coach and co-general manager. “We’re going to have to be ready from play one to beat Calgary.”

B.C. is looking for its first win of the campaign after falling 35-27 to the Argonauts in Toronto on Sunday.

Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had a league-high 363 passing yards in the effort, but also threw two interceptions and was sacked six times.

When the Lions got desperate late in Sunday’s game, the offensive line faltered, Campbell said.

“It got away at the end of the game when we knew we were throwing the ball,” he said. “(Toronto’s) front’s good. They pinned their ears back at the end and caused some problems for us. I think Toronto’s going to cause a lot of people problems.

“We like our O-line and we want to do whatever we can to protect our quarterback.”

There were lessons to take from the loss, Adams said, but it’s important for the Lions to simply move on.

“We flushed it, we washed it. And we came out here with good energy today,” he said. “It was a good practice today offensively, defensively, special teams locking things in.”

The Stampeders (1-0) opened their season with a 32-24 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Friday.

Collecting results early is a focus this year, in part because Calgary went 1-3 out of the gate last season, said head coach Dave Dickenson.

“The goal was to start faster, to get the first win at home, then see what we can do on the road,” he said. “So we’re right where we need to be. Now we need to see if we can stack two wins together.”

Jake Maier connected on 21 of his 26 passing attempts in the victory, amassing 252 yards and two touchdowns. The performance earned the quarterback a nod as the CFL’s top offensive player of the week.

B.C. knows Calgary is going to have a good all-around offence and be diverse in the plays they call, Campbell said.

“We’re going to have to be good and also find a way to get some pressure on him,” he said. “We can’t just have the quarterback stand back there being comfortable no matter who it is. So we’ll have to try to get him off his spot.”

Having a boisterous home crowd could be a boon for the Lions.

With so many people in the stands, Saturday could feel like a big American college game, said Adams, who played for the Eastern Washington Eagles and Oregon Ducks.

More fans doesn’t necessarily equal higher stakes, though, the quarterback added.

“No pressure at all,” he said. “If we just come out there, we play our game, we execute at a high level, and come out better in the second half, I think the scoreboard will take care of itself.”


Saturday, B.C. Place

ON TARGET: Maier has not thrown an interception in his last five starts. The feat ties Bo Levi Mitchell for second place on Calgary’s all-time list. Dickenson leads the category after going seven starts without an interception in 2000.

WHYTE HOT: Lions kicker Sean Whyte has made 19 field goal attempts in a row, dating back to last season. The 38-year-old Canadian has amassed 1,936 points in his career and is 64 points away from becoming the 11th player to hit the 2,000 mark.

BIG FANS: More than 51,000 people are expected to attend Saturday’s game. The Lions’ current attendance record for a home opener is 43,501 back in 1984.

READ ALSO: THE MOJ: Too many negative plays sink Lions in their season opener