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CFL Preview - British Columbia (0-0) at Calgary (0-0)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, June 28, 10:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: While the city of Calgary deals with devastating flood waters that could take up to 10 years to rebound from by some estimates, the Stampeders and the British Columbia Lions go about the business of playing football in their season opener on Friday night at McMahon Stadium.

While McMahon stands some distance away from where torrential rain and overflowing rivers created havoc in the downtown area, there was still some minor damage to the facility, but not enough to keep the game from being postponed.

Under the direction of head coach and general manager John Hufnagel, the Stampeders finished the 2012 regular season with a record of 12-6, just two points behind BC which won the regular season crown in the West Division with 13 wins and only five defeats. While Calgary had to take part in the first round of playoff games, the team managed to defeat Saskatchewan, 36-30, in order to set up a meeting with the Lions in the West Division Championship.

The teams also met on Nov. 18, with Calgary slipping by with a 34-29 triumph, en route to a date against Toronto in the 100th Grey Cup. Unfortunately for the Stamps, while they may have been the more successful squad during the regular season, they simply could not keep up with the Argos in what became a 35-22 Grey Cup win for Toronto at home at Rogers Centre.

In terms of the regular season, Calgary finished with four straight wins and five victories in six tries down the stretch in 2012. British Columbia tallied four wins over five games during the last month of the regular season, pushing the Lions to a 13-5 mark overall on their 16th straight trip to the postseason (second-longest active streak in the CFL behind Montreal).

BC, which won the Grey Cup at home in 2011 and has a total of six such trophies dating back to the 1960s, is coached by Mike Benevides who took over for Wally Buono when the latter decided to focus all of his energies on being general manager.

A defensive-minded coach who at one time served as the special teams coordinator for the Stamps from 2000-02, Benevides guided his squad to the top of the charts in terms of yards allowed last season, as the Lions permitted just 294.6 ypg. BC was head and shoulders above the rest of the league in that department, the only team giving up less than 330 ypg in fact. Because the defense was so stout, the Lions placed second in the CFL with a plus-nine in the turnover department.

While the defense should be just as tough again this season, the Lions also have one of the top offensive weapons in the league at their disposal in Andrew Harris. The running back led the CFL in yards from scrimmage in 2012 with 1,830, placing third in rushing with 1,112 yards, leading to seven touchdowns.

Like Harris, also claiming a spot on the CFL West All-Star team was Tim Brown who finished second in the league in all-purpose yards with 2,687, a total which was the second-highest in franchise history.

A division all-star in his own right, quarterback Travis Lulay was one of only two signal-callers to have an efficiency rating of over 100.0 a year ago, his 66.5 percent accuracy and 27 touchdowns being complemented by a mere 10 interceptions on 520 attempts.

Trying to slow down Lulay will be Charleston Hughes who was second in the CFL in sacks a year ago with 11, sandwiched between a pair of performers (Keron Williams and Adam Bighill) who combined for 21 quarterback takedowns. Unfortunately for the Stamps, no one else on the roster had more than four sacks last season.

While Hughes goes on the attack at the line of scrimmage, Keon Raymond will handle the secondary and hopefully make Lulay think twice about taking a shot further down the field based on the fact that Raymond was tied for second in the league with five interceptions, one of which he returned for a score in 2012. Signed to a contract barely a week ago, defensive back Jonathan Hefney comes to the Stamps after leading Winnipeg in total tackles with 74 a year ago.

Offensively, much of the attention will be placed on Jon Cornish who not only led the league in rushing last season with 1,457 yards, he also set the league's all-time, single-season mark in that department for a Canadian born performer.

Kevin Glenn, responsible for 4,220 passing yards and 25 TDs through the air, but also 16 interceptions which was second-most in the league, is back to direct the Calgary offense. However, Glenn knows full well that backups Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell will be pushing him for playing time.

In 2012 BC won the first two meetings against the Stamps, the initial clash being a 34-8 romp on the road in late July and the second a 27-22 decision at home the first week of October. The clubs then met in Week 18 in Calgary where the hosts crushed the Lions, 41-21.

The squads have three more regular season contests scheduled against each other for 2013, the next one coming in the middle of August with the Lions hosting.

It still might be a tough task for fans to find the time, energy and ease to attend this game, but the Lions and Stamps still plan on being there in full force. Presumably, those in attendance will give the home team the lift it needs to get over on BC.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 24, British Columbia 20

06/26 10:33:02 ET