Lions face pivotal question

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Does the Buck start here?

That was the big question asked yesterday as the Renegades and B.C. Lions went through final preparations for tonight's 7 p.m. battle at Frank Clair Stadium.

And the Lions, who are 9-0 and blazing a mighty trail to a Grey Cup game hosted in Vancouver 21/2 months from now, insist they won't know the answer until today.

Will they risk using quarterback Dave Dickenson, whose separated left (non-throwing) shoulder is improving?

Or will they give 23-year-old rookie Buck Pierce his first CFL start?

Not an option is 2004 league MVP Casey Printers, who is out with a bad shoulder of his own.

"Dave did practice all week, and he's getting better and better," said Lions coach Wally Buono. "I think he feels comfortable about playing, but we're going to make that decision (tonight)."

Buono says he himself doesn't know who will start -- not like when he held back on naming his quarterback at last year's Grey Cup here to keep the media from pestering his QB. At that time, Dickenson had a separated throwing shoulder, but he had it frozen so he could play.

Buono indicated yesterday no such measures would be taken today, and that he would "decipher" all the factors after Dickenson was seen by a team doctor.

DICKENSON 'AVAILABLE'

"I'm available," said Dickenson, who has been the league MVP thus far in 2005. "I could start and play a couple of series and Buck could play the rest. It's Week 10, I don't want to miss another game ... I'm a rhythm thrower and I get out of rhythm missing one week."

Pierce has played in two games, wrapping up a 39-15 win over Hamilton on Aug. 19, then bailing out the Lions one week later with two long TD drives on a night they trailed Saskatchewan 15-5.

"He's a cool dude, I like Buck," said Ottawa linebacker D'Wayne Taylor, a teammate of Pierce's for two years at New Mexico State. "He's very athletic, he's got a strong arm and a good touch. He's a smart player. But we're ready for whoever they put out there."

Renegades D-line coach Richard Harris was also unsure who that would be, and he worked for Buono in B.C. the last two years.

"If Dave is healthy, Dave will play," said Harris. "Whoever they play, we're going to turn guys loose on him. If Pierce is the healthiest, we have to go in and try to knock his ass out."

The Renegades were able to get to Dickenson when the two teams met in Week 2, a 37-29 Lions win at B.C. Place that saw Anthony Collier tie a CFL record with five sacks.

"I'm expecting everything," Collier said of this meeting. "I expect to be double teamed a lot."

Ottawa also has to get out of its offensive rut if it hopes to beat the Lions, the only team it has yet to defeat. The 'Gades have averaged just 21 points per game in their last six.

"The defence has been playing great all year ... but we've got to get it in the end zone," said receiver Yo Murphy. "We've got to sustain drives and get 28, 30 points a game. It's the CFL."


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