B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono, left, and Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson shake hands after Buono coached his last regular season CFL football game in Vancouver, on Saturday November 3, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

B.C. Lions face difficult trek to earn Buono a title in his final season

B.C. will open the CFL playoffs on the road in Hamilton next Sunday

The B.C. Lions will have to blaze a new trail to earn head coach Wally Buono a record sixth Grey Cup in the final season of his illustrious CFL career.

B.C. will open the CFL playoffs on the road in Hamilton next Sunday. The Lions (9-9) finished the regular season fourth in the West Division but clinched a post-season berth as a crossover team having posted a better record than the East Division’s third-place finisher.

As a result, B.C. became the No. 3 playoff seed in the East.

On paper, it would appear to be an easier trip to a Grey Cup berth. The Tiger-Cats (8-10) finished second in the East Division behind the first-place Ottawa Redblacks (11-7). What’s more, Hamilton heads into the playoffs riding a three-game losing streak.

Compare that to the ultra-competitive West Division, where Calgary (13-5) was first ahead of Saskatchewan (12-6), Winnipeg (10-8) and B.C. The Stampeders cemented top spot with a 26-9 road win over the Lions on Saturday night, their first victory in four games.

However, no West Division crossover team has ever represented the East Division in the Grey Cup since the crossover was implemented in 1996. Western teams have won the conference semifinals four times but never the final to advance to the CFL title game.

READ MORE: Stampeders beat Lions 26-9 to spoil final home game for Buono

Also on Sunday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West Division semifinal. The winner will visit Calgary in the conference final Nov. 18.

Hamilton is hosting a home playoff game for the fifth time in six years and has a 27-17 (.614) home playoff record. By comparison, B.C. has an 11-23 (.324) post-season road mark.

The Lions are an East Division crossover team for the fifth time (2014, 2009, 2003 and 1997).

B.C. was a solid 7-2 at home this season but just 2-7 on the road. The Lions did split their season series with Hamilton, with each team winning at its home venue.

B.C. beat Hamilton 35-32 at B.C. Place Stadium on Sept. 22 but the Ticats prevailed 40-10 the following week at Tim Hortons Field.

The winner will visit the Redblacks in the East Division final on Nov. 18 at T.D. Place.

Buono will make his final playoff run on B.C.’s sidelines. The 68-year-old head coach will retire at season’s end.

It’s been quite a 25-year run for Buono, who began his CFL head-coaching career with Calgary in 1990. He has an overall record of 282-165-3, having amassed more wins than any other coach in league history.

And Buono has enjoyed plenty of success against Hamilton, having compiled a 33-15 overall record. Buono’s teams are a solid 119-103-3 (.536 winning percentage) on the road.

Buono also has an 18-13 playoff record and his five Grey Cup wins in nine appearances is tied for the most by a head coach in CFL history. But the Lions are chasing their first CFL championship since 2011.

Saskatchewan will host Winnipeg having won the season series 2-1 but the Bombers enter the playoffs having won five of their final six games. Their 33-24 loss Saturday to Edmonton came after having already clinched a post-season berth and head coach Mike O’Shea opted to rest many of his veterans.

Winnipeg won the last regular-season meeting by a lopsided 31-0 score at Investors Group Field. Linebacker Adam Bighill had eight tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble for the Bombers, who also intercepted Riders starter Zach Collaros twice and held him to 69 yards passing after completing just 8-of-19 attempts.

But Saskatchewan earned its first home playoff game since 2013, which is also when the club last won the Grey Cup.

Saskatchewan has a 23-26-1 (.588) home playoff record while Winnipeg is 21-32 (.396) on the road during the post-season.

The two teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since ‘03 when Saskatchewan won 37-21 in Winnipeg.

Bombers running back Andrew Harris captured his second straight CFL rushing title. The Winnipeg native amassed 1,390 yards on 239 carries (5.8-yard average) to finish 28 yards ahead of Ottawa’s William Powell.

Edmonton’s C.J Gable was the CFL’s only other 1,000-yard rusher, running for 112 yards and two TDs against Winnipeg to boost his season total for 1,063 yards on 196 carries (5.4-yard average) with seven touchdowns.

Teammate Mike Reilly was the league’s passing leader for the second straight year, amassing 5,562 yards. Jeremiah Masoli, who didn’t play in Hamilton’s 30-28 regular-season finale loss to Montreal on Saturday, was second with 5,209 yards.

Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell (5,124) and Ottawa’s Trevor Harris (5,116) were the other 5,000-yard passers. Mitchell led all CFL quarterbacks in touchdown passes (35).

Edmonton’s D’haquille Williams was the CFL’s top receiver with 1,579 yards on 88 catches and 11 TDs. Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli had the most receptions (116) as his total was a single-season record for a Canadian-born player.

Calgary linebacker Alex Singleton had a league-best 122 defensive tackles and 128 total tackles. Saskatchewan’s Charleston Hughes led the CFL in sacks (15) for the third time in his 11-year career.

Ottawa kicker Lewis Ward enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign, making 51-of-52 field goals (98.1 per cent) to break the single-season record of 97.74 per cent held previously by Calgary’s Rene Paredes. Ward, a former Ottawa Gee-Gees star, has hit 46 straight attempts, a pro football single-season mark.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Strathcona Regional District committee wants more info on pot best practices

Electoral Area Services Committee wants staff to put together report for board

Storm dominates league following two weekend victories

Campbell River trounces Nanaimo Buccaneers and Oceanside Generals

Vancouver Island brewery re-brands again after cryptic new logo failed

Victoria-based brewers said goodbye to confusing hexagon logo

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Shelter struggles: Landlord takes over rental unit whenever visiting B.C. town

Renter’s story highlights how hard it is to find accommodation in Revelstoke

Most Read