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B.C. Lions reflect on another year of not getting over the hump

CFL squad still has to figure out how to be better than the Winigpeg Blue Bombers

Garry Peters has been looking back through his phone.

Specifically, for videos he’s taken in the B.C. Lions’ locker room, starting back at training camp in Kamloops in May and through the season.

“I was going through my phone, I take videos walking around the locker room doing goofy stuff all day,” the defensive back said. “From camp to during the bye weeks when we’re all taking trips together, to now it’s the end of the year.

“To see where we’ve started, to see how we’ve grown as men, as football players and to see now its all coming to an end, it’s a sad moment.”

After a season of talking of getting over the hump of “one more game,” the Lions’ 2023 CFL campaign ended like it did in 2022 — with a loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on a snowy IG Field in the West Division final.

“Right now, we’re just trying to figure out how to beat the Bombers,” said Neil McEvoy, B.C.’s co-general manager and director of football operations.

“Let’s call it what it is. They are the upper echelon football team in the Canadian Football League. We are trying to beat them and as we unfortunately saw on Saturday, we’re not there yet.”

B.C. quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was sacked nine times Saturday in the 24-13 division final loss and was 13-of-25 passing for 221 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

It marked a dip in form for the high-flying Lions offence which saw Adams throw for 4,769 yards and 31 touchdowns over the course of the season.

“I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t get as many points on the board for the team. Disappointed I couldn’t get going and give us a spark, yeah, that’s it. I just feel a little bit disappointed,” said Adams on Monday reflecting on the loss.

The Lions game plan was also affected by the loss of receiver Keon Hatcher and defensive back T.J. Lee, both with Achilles injuries.

Hatcher finished the season tied with fellow receiver Alexander Hollins with 78 receptions, but finished top of the receivers chart with 1,226 yards.

B.C. head coach Rick Campbell said Monday during the team’s end of season media availability that the players were meeting with doctors today to determine whether surgery would be needed.

Vancouver will host the Grey Cup next season, but Campbell said that doesn’t change the pressure he faces.

“It doesn’t mean anything as a football coach. If someone ever said ‘We’re going to try harder because the Grey Cup is in Vancouver,” then I’d say ‘What the hell were we doing the previous years?’ That’s where it comes from,” he said.

“Do I think it’s going to be special that it’s in Vancouver? Absolutely. Would we want to play in it? One hundred per cent, but I hope we have that attitude every year.”

Capmbell acknowledged the failure to get by the Blue Bombers for a second straight season, and said his team’s mentality is focused on getting over that hurdle.

“We’re going to be in the mode of know we’re knocking on the door, but we need to knock the door down,” he said.

Peters called the 2023 Lions squad the closest he’s ever played on and he knows that will change next season as players leave and new arrivals are brought in.

Campbell said coaching staff have started end of season interviews with players and he’s hopeful of bringing back the majority of the core that led his team to a second placed finish in the West Division.

“We’re going to try to bring a lot of people back, try to have as much continuity as we can. There’s going to be changes, there always is,” he said.

Defensive lineman Mathieu Betts set a new Canadian record for sacks this past season, but his contract is up.

The Montreal native said he’d like to stay in Vancouver, having established himself as a top-tier defensive player, but said he hasn’t yet discussed an extension.

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