CFL

With Lulay nursing injury, DeMarco to remain Lions' starter

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The Canadian Press
10/22/2013 8:41:19 PM
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SURREY, B.C. -- Thomas DeMarco is grateful to get another chance to lead the B.C. Lions.

Now it's up to him to show he deserves it.

The second-year quarterback has had his share of ups and downs since taking over from injured starter Travis Lulay five weeks ago.

He led the Lions to back-to-back road wins in his first two CFL starts, but has struggled the last three games -- all losses to division rivals.

Still, the Lions will go with DeMarco again when they host the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night.

"You're going to have tough things you're going to push through and the fact that I got the nod, it means a lot to me," DeMarco said after Tuesday's practice. "I want to work through my difficulties, as any quarterback would like to, and I'm happy that I got that opportunity."

The product of Old Dominion University did a good job of managing the ball in his first two starts, completing 39-of-65 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns against no interceptions.

In B.C.'s three straight losses -- including Saturday's 35-14 blowout in Regina at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- DeMarco was a pedestrian 49-for-95 passing for 677 yards to go along with four TDs and eight picks.

And while Lions head coach Mike Benevides agreed DeMarco hasn't been at his best of late, he added that the 24-year-old gives his team the best chance to win.

"Right now Thomas is still the guy that takes the first snap because he's shown an ability to make those plays," said Benevides. "There's been some regression, but any young guy is going to go through tough times, especially at the quarterback position.

"If you ask any quarterback, they're going to ask to fight through those things and appreciate the fact they were given the opportunity."

Lulay, who has been out with an injury to his throwing shoulder since Sept. 15 and was originally expected to only miss two weeks, performed a bit of soft toss on the sidelines during Tuesday's practice but nothing more.

"I'm kind of at the mercy of the symptoms," said Lulay. "I push it to where I know I need shut it down and hope to continue to progress."

The Lions (9-7) host the Eskimos (3-13) on Friday in a game that means nothing in the standings, but a lot to the team's psyche. B.C. is locked into the West Division's third seed with two games remaining, and will be on the road to face either Saskatchewan or the Calgary Stampeders when the post-season begins.

If the Lions are going to make any noise in the playoffs, two strong outings to close out the regular season will be critical.

"I want us to go out there and play like we know we can," said DeMarco, who threw four interceptions against the Roughriders. "We've put quarters together, we've put halves together (but) we haven't put a whole game together. I'm sure if we're able to do that we'll turn some heads."

If they don't, it's not like Benevides is out of options if DeMarco continues to struggle and Lulay remains on the shelf.

Buck Pierce, a member of the Lions from 2005 to 2010, was acquired from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last month as an insurance policy. The 31-year-old has seen limited action in his return to B.C., but said he will be ready if called upon.

Benevides doesn't want to have to make that move, but added the time is now for DeMarco to step up after a disappointing performance against Saskatchewan.

"It's important and critical for us and for him to make sure that when he goes against the Edmonton Eskimos, he shows right off the top that he's learned from it, he's focused and he has the ability and the capability to understand where the offence asks him to put the ball -- that's his job," said Benevides. "It's vital, not only for us but for him, to get it right."

Thomas DeMarco (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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