SPORTS

Lions look for revenge against Ticats after losing a pair of games in 2011

07/05/2012 07:22 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - Last week, receiver Geroy Simon was looking to put his name in the CFL's history books.

This week, he and the rest of the B.C. Lions are looking for redemption against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night.

Simon set the CFL's all-time receiving record in B.C.'s season-opening win over Winnipeg. But he and his teammates are dissatisfied with recent efforts against Hamilton.

The Ticats have won four of the past five-regular-season meetings between the teams dating to 2009. Including playoffs, the Southern Ontario squad is 4-2 against B.C. in the same time span.

"We're looking to play better against these guys," said Simon after a walk-through Thursday at B.C. Place Stadium. "We haven't played particularly well the last couple of years. They've had our number, so we're looking to turn the tide and get a victory."

Simon is looking forward to a more normal game after being the centre of attention before and after eclipsing retired Bomber great Milt Stegall's record. Most of Simon's friends and family have gone home following the history-setting night, when he caught five passes for 105 yards in the Grey Cup rematch to reach 15,192 yards for his career.

Two friends are coming in from Winnipeg for Friday's contest, when the Lions will pay him a longer tribute during a special half-time ceremony. But Simon expects to be able to concentrate better against Hamilton.

"Things are back to normal," he said. "I'm feeling good. I'm ready to go. Hardly no distractions, so I'm ready to rock and roll."

But the Lions have not been able to produce much in the way of a melody against Tiger-Cats lately. Hamilton went 2-0 against the Lions last season, beating them 39-31 in July. The loss was the fourth of five straight season-opening setbacks for the Lions.

B.C. soon turned its fortunes around, winning 11 of its next 12 games en route to the sixth Grey Cup in franchise history. But the Lions have still not solved the Ticats' puzzle.

The lone loss in the late-season surge was to Hamilton — in the form of a 42-10 whitewashing. No other team has beaten B.C. since then.

Simon, who routinely amasses more than 100 receiving yards per game, has been limited to double-digit yardage in the past six games, five in the regular season and one in the playoffs, between the clubs.

"I think I've played okay," said Simon, who was held to 42 yards in their last meeting, in October. "I could have have played better. I got a couple big hits on me last year, in the last game we played in Hamilton. But last year was last year. I'm looking to gain on the momentum that we achieved last week."

B.C. tailback Andrew Harris also hopes to pick up on the momentum of last week and late last season, when he emerged as a starter en route to being named top Canadian in the Grey Cup. But he is also looking for some redemption against Hamilton.

Last season, he was still a backup in the first game in July and did not play much in a 39-31 loss, managing a respectable 13 yards on two carries. In the second game, he was sidelined with a shoulder injury in the second quarter after gaining 40 yards on just three carries.

"I'm just hoping to get a full game and, at the end of the game, two points," said Harris.

Rookie B.C. offensive guard Matt Norman is also looking to redeem himself after struggling in his CFL debut. He started against the Bombers but played spariningly in the second half.

"It's a fast, big, strong league," he said. "You're playing against smart football players. Obviously, there's going to be a learning curve, which there is to anything. So I'm just going to keep plugging away."

New Lions coach Mike Benevides, who was around for the previous losses as an assistant, hopes B.C. has learned a few lessons from their most recent encounters with Hamilton. He said the Lions must get out to a much better and more aggressive start than they did previously. Benevides attributes the Lions' struggles with the Ticats to several factors, not the least of which is familiarity.

Several ex-Lions wearing yellow and black have come back to haunt B.C. Most have gone, but hard-hitting linebackers Jamall Johnson and Markeith Knowlton remain.

Quarterback Travis Lulay expects the duo to be part of constant pressure that he will face from a difficult Hamiton defence. He also wants the Lions to cut down on their penalties after seeing four first downs nullified by infractions against Winnipeg.

The Ticats are also looking for redemption after losing 43-16 to Saskatchewan in their season opener under new coach George Cortez. But Benevides and Lulay contend, as with their 33-13 win over Winnipeg, the game was much closer than the score indicated.

"They're stung a little bit about how the first week went, and we know how this is, to come off a loss and come back after the first half of last season," said Lulay. "This an important week for them, so we know we'll get a great effort from them."

Notes: Lions offensive guard Jon Hameister-Ries, who missed two practices this week because of lingering effects of a knee injury suffered in training camp, will be a game-time decision. Fellow B.C. guard Dean Valli (knee). ... The B.C. Place roof will be open. The Lions have pledged to let fans know the roof's status earlier so that they can dress accordingly. ... Knowlton will return to Hamilton's starting lineup after being used as a backup last week.

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