VANCOUVER — Andrew Harris and the B.C. Lions don't mind being counted out.
"I've been an underdog pretty much my whole career," the running back said this week. "I like being in that situation."
The Lions find themselves in exactly that position heading into the Sunday's CFL West Division semifinal in Calgary. Oddsmakers don't like their chances, and neither does at least one television pundit, who told a national audience that all the Stampeders need to do is "show up" to get a victory over the B.C. at McMahon Stadium.
"It's always nice being the underdog because people don't expect you to do anything," said Lions rookie quarterback Jonathon Jennings. "Let everybody think what they want to think and we'll go out there and take care of business."
While it's no surprise the team is using the skepticism as a rallying cry, it can be justified when looking at the Lions' entire body of work to this point. B.C. (7-11) had an up-and-down regular season under first-year head coach Jeff Tedford, but put things together when it mattered most down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed in the West.
One of the big reasons for the resurgence was Jennings, who took over from injured starter Travis Lulay in September, held on to the job once the veteran QB was back healthy and will make his first playoff start against Calgary.
"It's another game, but I'm excited," said the 23-year-old. "Obviously the stage is going to be a little bit bigger. We're just all excited to go out there. My preparations isn't changing. I have to attack the game the same."
Calgary (14-4) beat B.C. in both meetings this season, but the second victory came in last week's meaningless finale that had the feel of an exhibition game as the teams rested starters on both sides of the ball.
Lions linebacker Adam Bighill led the CFL with 117 tackles and is one of the leaders on a young defence that has improved over the course of the campaign. Like the rest of his teammates, he's fine with being overlooked.
"It's the way people have looked at us all year," said Bighill. "But at the same time we've been getting better every week. We've shown continuously on film that we can do some great things. When we come to play offence, defence and special teams, I know that hands down we can play and beat these guys."
B.C. defensive back Ryan Phillips, who finished in a three-way tie for the league lead with six interceptions, added that the Lions are peaking at the right time as they get set to face the defending Grey Cup champions.
"There were teams begging us not to make the playoffs," he said. "I feel like they see the team that we could be. We show potential, we show growth and I feel our best football is still ahead of us. That fact that we're an unknown adds a fear factor."
Note: Richie Leone will handle kicking duties for B.C. on Sunday. He played the first 17 games of the schedule, but missed a total of 11 converts before taking a seat in the regular-season finale in favour of fellow rookie Anthony Fera. Tedford said there would be a "competition" in practice this week to see which player would kick against Calgary before announcing Thursday that Leone would return to the lineup.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press