Whitehead in the spotlight as BC Lions take on Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Florida Atlantic product played 15 games with the Gray Cup-winning Bombers in 2019, serving as both receiver and returner. But towards the end of the season, he slipped into the depths table and was a good scratch for the playoffs.
Whitehead signed as a free agent with British Columbia in February and said he came to training camp to prove he can do more than just come back.
“I wanted that respect. … I really wanted to prove the receiving side, ”he said.
“Mentally and physically I’m just in a better place overall. “
Whitehead was named one of the CFL’s top performing players in September, a recognition that Lions quarterback Michael Reilly called well-deserved.
“He’s worked really hard to be in the position he’s in, to help us win games and things like that,” said Reilly, who also got the performer of the month title.
“I think he’s a guy who plays with a lot of confidence and every week that confidence grows because of the success he has individually on the pitch, but also the position in which our team has a chance to win. “
Reilly also gave BC a chance to win. He leads the league in passing with 1,870 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games. It logged on 148 out of 199 attempts and initiated only one interception.
It will be difficult to add to his record against Winnipeg. The Bombers have the stingiest defense in the CFL so far this season, allowing just 98 points in seven games.
“They make it difficult. They give you different looks, a little man, a little zone, a little pressure. But it’s nothing too crazy or exotic, ”Reilly said. “It’s just about them who believe their guys up front are going to beat your guys up front and you won’t have enough time to hit the holes in their zones or enjoy different things.”
The Bombers head to Vancouver rested after a week off and on a four-game winning streak. The Lions, meanwhile, are looking to bounce back from a tough 31-24 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week.
British Columbia were leading 24-18 seconds to go when Riders quarterback Cody Fajardo pushed his way through the goal line for a touchdown. Saskatchewan then poured salt into the injury with another touchdown on a failed kick return.
The game showed “everything counts,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said.
“I think we already knew that, but it’s a great example that a lot of these games, 99% of these games, are going to be in the fourth quarter and a lot of them are in the last two minutes of the game. “, did he declare.
“You have to embrace the tough times when the game is on the line and not be surprised to be put in those situations.”
It’s a lesson the Lions take to heart as they prepare for Friday’s game, their last game before the second week off of the season.
British Columbia knows where Winnipeg stands in the standings, Campbell said.
“There’s a little bit of excitement because we’re going to play against the team with the best record. And we think we’re a good football team too, ”he said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, we expect it to be a close game, but we want to go out there and prove that we can play with anyone.”
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (6-1) AT BC LIONS (4-3)
Friday, BC Place
INJURY REPORT: The Lions will be without defensive backs KiAnte Hardin (hamstrings) and Marcus Sayles (calf). Winnipeg added defensive back Noah Hallett (knee) and linebacker Kevin Brown (shoulder) to the injured list.
STRIPE: Bryan Burnham of British Columbia had four catches against Saskatchewan and had at least one catch in each of his last 89 regular season games. Across the field, Winnipeg’s Sean McGuire has recorded touchdowns in his last three outings. The American quarterback leads the CFL with six rushing touchdowns – all in the last three games.
HISTORY BOOKS: Friday’s tilt will be the 175th regular season game between the Lions and the Bombers, dating back to 1954. Winnipeg has won both games in 2019 and has won eight of the last 11 games dating back to 2015.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 30, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press