Garry Peters is adamant.
The B.C. Lions defence has earned its title of “best in the league.”
“As a defence, you don’t see a lot of guys complaining out there. The guys are always picking each other up and it comes from during the week,” said the defensive back from Conyers, Ga. “Everybody is positive, you don’t see guys moping around when getting subbed out.”
The defence in question has allowed the CFL’s fewest points this season, entering Week 9 with just 94 points against — and nearly half of those came in a 45-24 loss to the Toronto Argonauts.
The Lions have secured two shutouts and have held opponents to single-digits four times through seven games.
Peters attributes this success to a combination of thorough preparation and increased maturity.
“We’re not little boys anymore, we’re grown men,” he said. “When life hits you, you can’t come out here take this job for granted because someone else is looking to take your job.
“Looking across the (defence) we have those players on our defence. Our defence is hungry.”
Lions head coach Rick Campbell echoed his defensive back’s sentiments, emphasizing B.C.’s strength in numbers approach.
”It’s a collective effort of the 12 guys on the field and our coaching staff working together,” Campbell said.
After Saturday’s 27-0 blowout win against the Edmonton Elks, defensive back Emmanuel Rugamba emphasized the team’s collective motivation.
“We thrive on each other’s success, whether it’s a pick, QB pressure, a sack, or a big hit. We draw tremendous energy from those moments,” he said.
The Lions are the first team since the 1970 Calgary Stampeders to record two shutouts in the same season — and the first team to ever blank the same opponent twice in the same season.
Both of the Lions’ shutouts this season have come against the winless Elks.
“That must mean we’re pretty special,” Rugamba said.
Apart from the historic shutout marker, the Lions’ defence is creating another record-breaking story. Defensive lineman Mathieu Betts is on track to break the record for most sacks by a Canadian player, with an impressive 10 sacks through seven games.
It’s been some time since a Canadian led the CFL in sacks. Ricky Foley of Courtice, Ont., then playing for B.C., finished tied with American John Bowman — the Lions’ defensive line coach — in 2009 (12 each).
Hall of Famer Brent Johnson, of Kingston, Ont., another former Lion, led in 2005 (17, most in a season by a Canadian) and 2006 (16). He was the CFL’s top Canadian both seasons and also its outstanding defensive player in ’06.
The CFL’s leading rusher and his Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Lions and their top-ranked defence Thursday at IG Field.
Brady Oliveira is ready for a Lions’ defence he described as a fast group that’s benefitting from continuity.
“I love the challenge. The bigger the challenge, the better it is,” Oliveira said Wednesday after Winnipeg’s walk-through.
“The sweeter it will taste at the end of the game when we have that victory, knowing that we put it on a great defence.”
Oliveira tops the league’s ball carriers with 526 yards off 103 rushes, including one touchdown. His 75.1-yard average through seven games is also a league-high.
B.C. sits third in the league in allowing 67.3 yards rushing. Winnipeg is sixth (94.9).
The Lions most recent shutout prompted Campbell to call his defence the “Doughnut Boys” in a locker-room video. He didn’t take credit for coming up with a sweet nickname for his defence, explaining some players were discussing pitching a zero.
“They were talking and I said ‘I’m OK with the Doughnut Boys,’” Campbell said Wednesday upon arrival in Winnipeg.
He knows the shutout was a rare accomplishment and praised the group effort of players and coaches.
The Lions allow the fewest points per game (13.4), plus opponents have scored just five touchdowns through seven games.
The Blue Bombers are second in the West at 5-2. A B.C. win secures the season series between the two clubs for the Lions.
The teams clash again Oct. 6 on the West Coast.
The visiting Lions handed Winnipeg its biggest loss in June when a 30-6 victory included the sacking Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros a season-high seven times.