SURREY, B.C. — Rick Campbell is maintaining his, and his team's, mantra of "one game at a time" as the push to make the CFL post-season kicks into high gear.
With a win Saturday and a Calgary loss next week, the B.C. Lions would be a playoff team for a second straight season.
The Lions (8-4) take on the struggling Ottawa Redblacks (3-9) who have lost six in a row, but Campbell said he's focused on how his own team performs.
"We have so much to play for down the home stretch that regardless of who we're playing in the last six games, it's going to have a huge impact on the standings. We've got to play for us," he said.
B.C. comes off a bye week after beating the Montreal Alouettes 34-25. The Lions remember the last time they faced a team with a losing record with expectations of an easy win.
The Lions turned in a subdued performance and were pummeled 30-13 by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Aug. 26. B.C.'s players struggled to find a spark on offence and defence in that game.
"You know, they say the season doesn't really start till after Labour Day," said Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.
"So this is where it matters. You don't want to look too far ahead, but you want to host a playoff game, get that first round bye. We got to take care of us first. We got to take care of one game at a time and by not looking over Ottawa. No matter what their record is, they're always in games."
Campbell agreed with his starting quarterback.
"We've got to play good football No. 1. These last six weeks a lot of stuff is going to happen in the standings and we need to stack as many wins as we can get," he said. "It's got to be about us and playing football as good as we can play."
Adams says the Lions can improve in several key areas: penalties, sustaining offensive drives, executing better in the red zone and giving the defence a rest by avoiding three and outs.
"There's six games left and a lot to get better at," he said. "I think we're a pretty good team and when we're hitting on all cylinders and pretty good energy, it's tough to stop us. I think we stop ourselves a lot of the time."
The Lions will be without wide receiver Dominique Rhymes, who remains on the injured list in order to return as an impact player, as well as linebacker Bo Lokombo, Campbell said. Lokombo leads the Lions in defensive tackles with 66.
For Ottawa, it's about finding a way to finish plays. After a bye, the Redblacks lost 27-24 last week to a Hamilton team playing its second game in four days.
"I don’t think it’s a matter of rust,” Redblacks coach Bob Dyce said after the loss to the Ticats. “I think it’s a matter of executing when it’s most important and we weren’t able to do that.”
OTTAWA REDBLACKS (3-9) AT B.C. LIONS (8-4)
CLINCH: B.C. was a playoff team 20 straight years from 1997 to 2017, but hasn't reached the post-season in back-to-back years since then. A win Saturday followed by a Calgary loss to the Alouettes next week would assure the Lions of another post-season appearance after B.C. fell to Winnipeg in last year's West final.
HOME COMFORTS: The Lions play four of their six remaining games on home turf. The Lions are 4-1 at B.C. Place with a point differential of plus-59.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Lions head coach Rick Campbell is 4-0 playing his former Ottawa team since leaving in 2019.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press