Lions' standout slotbacks 'doubtful' against Stamps

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:08 PM ET

VANCOUVER - No Geroy Simon. No Arland Bruce III. No worries.

That seems to be the mindset coming from the B.C. Lions’ contingent as they prepare for an important division showdown with the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday minus their top two receivers.

But even though the veteran pair missed Tuesday’s practice and remain “doubtful” for the weekend — according to head coach Mike Benevides — quarterback Travis Lulay voiced his confidence in his receiving corps, which had Nick Moore and rookie Courtney Taylor filling in for the two absent slotbacks.

“Those guys are ready to play,” Lulay said. “We’ve had success a few weeks back when we were in a similar situation, guys needed to step up and they did just that.

“What you lose in some of the savviness from the veteran guys, you get a great hunger and appreciation for an opportunity that these guys have. It’s just matter of channeling that and letting it come to light on game day.”

Both Bruce (concussion-like symptoms) and Simon (hamstring) left before halftime in the 27-21 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, forcing the Lions offence to push forward without their two most reliable receivers. Even so, Lulay found a way to pull things together, instead utilizing youngsters Kierrie Johnson and Marco Iannuzzi to reach the end zone twice in the final four minutes.

Johnson finished with three catches for 75 yards, making a couple of big grabs down the field, while Iannuzzi was the recipient of both touchdown passes, giving him five major scores this season.

While the comeback attempt came up short for the 9-4 Leos, Lulay was encouraged by the team’s ability to generate significant yards late in the game despite missing two key pieces.

“That was huge,” the pivot said. “That was crunch time and a lot of them playing out of position and playing in spots they’ve never been in. For us to be able to operate when we absolutely had to, our backs were against the wall, and we fought like crazy. If we have to again, we have the confidence that we have the right guys on the football team that can step in.”

While there will be added pressure on the Lions receivers to fill the void this week, Johnson said he’s looking forward to taking on a bigger role.

“I know there will be more opportunities coming my way,” the 24-year-old said. “I’ll just take it and do my job, and whenever my number is called, I’ll make the play.”

Defensive end Khalif Mitchell, who missed Saturday’s game, was also absent from practice, instead working out on the elliptical, while left guard Jon Hameister-Ries is dealing with back issues. Returner Tim Brown was back Tuesday after missing one game with a collarbone injury.

Big number

Somewhat lost in Saturday’s dramatics in Saskatchewan was the defensive effort by Lions linebacker Adam Bighill.

The second-year import put together a franchise record of 13 tackles, which moves him into second overall in the CFL with 77 defensive tackles — 24 behind league-leader J.C. Sherritt of the Edmonton Eskimos. Tuesday, he was recognized for it, named the CFL defensive player of the week for the second straight week and the fourth time this season.

“I try to do my job to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’m just trying to make plays and fortunately, they keep coming my way. I’m not too worried about individual awards.”

Fellow back, Solomon Elimimian, who played his first game with B.C. this season, finished with one tackle.


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