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OTTAWA — When the Ottawa Redblacks host the B.C. Lions on Saturday night, it will mark the first time a CFL game has been played at TD Place since November 2019.
Paul LaPolice was hired by the Redblacks later that year but had to wait to make his home debut as Ottawa head coach due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Former Redblacks coach Rick Campbell, meanwhile, will be on the opposite sideline guiding the Lions.
Campbell coached the Redblacks from 2014-19 and led the team to a Grey Cup win in 2016. He met his wife in Ottawa and made some great friendships in the city.
"I think it'll be big for me coming back,” said Campbell. "It was a huge time in my life for many reasons and I'm a big, big fan of the city."
Campbell added that he'll try his best to focus on the task at hand.
"Once the ball is kicked off and you're done, you kind of just do the football part of it," he said. "But it'll be big for me to come back and I guess always will be because Ottawa will always be a big part of my life.”
After two games, the 1-1-0 Redblacks have yet to find their offensive groove.
Ottawa beat Edmonton 16-12 in Week 1 but that was followed by a 23-10 loss to Saskatchewan last week. The Redblacks have averaged just 150.0 net yards per game this season.
“I expect to execute every play we call,” said LaPolice, who also serves as offensive co-ordinator. "It’s not like we haven’t practised these things and not like we’ve done our best to put them in … we expect to execute each play and we’re certainly working toward that.”
It will also be the home debut for Redblacks quarterback Matt Nichols.
“We took a big step forward from Week 1 to Week 2 and that’s what you want is for the offence to take steps forward,” Nichols said. “I feel like everyone’s on the same page."
The Redblacks will look for continuity from their defence against the 1-2-0 Lions. Leading the charge will be linebacker Avery Williams, who has a CFL-high 23 tackles in two games.
All three B.C. games were decided by less than a converted touchdown.
B.C. dropped a 33-29 decision to Saskatchewan in the season opener before topping Calgary 15-9 a week later. The Lions are coming off a 21-16 loss to Edmonton last week.
There will be some positional changes for the Redblacks. Justin Davis will start at running back, Charone Peak will be at wide receiver and Brad Muhammad and Marcus Lewis will start at defensive back.
Ottawa's Abdul Kanneh and Sherrod Baltimore were moved to the six-game injury list.
B.C (1-2) AT OTTAWA (1-1)
MAKE IT STOP: Matt Nichols has been sacked 10 times in just two games, the most of any quarterback to date. Ottawa has allowed 11 sacks overall.
CAN’T STOP REILLY: B.C. quarterback Mike Reilly's interception-free streak is now 143 attempts in a row.
LION’S DEN: The Lions swept the 2019 season series from Ottawa and have won their last three meetings against the Redblacks overall.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2021.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press