By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

It has been a football season of challenges for Buck Pierce.

The former Del Norte High School standout and current quarterback for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League stood on the practice field at the high school on Monday, watching the varsity team practice as he talked to his former coaches.

Pierce smiled as he watched the team prepare for the season -his right arm, his throwing arm, in a brace.

Friday night against the Calgary Stampeders, Pierce was finishing up a terrific effort for the Lions at the end of the fourth quarter, when he was sacked and injured on the play. He had thrown for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

The Lions ended up with a 45-45 tie and are 5-2-1 for the season.

On Saturday, Pierce was diagnosed with a third-degree shoulder separation. Normally, that means a player will be out for at least four to six weeks, he said. Pierce is determined to get back on the field as soon as possible, while at the same time letting his injury fully heal.

Knowing he will be on the sidelines and not on the field is andquot;frustrating.andquot;

andquot;I was playing well,andquot; Pierce said.

For the year, Pierce has thrown for five touchdowns and three interceptions, and has a passer rating of 90.7.

He has battled a number of injuries this season that have made him miss games, including bruising his right hand and a rib injury.

andquot;It's frustrating that I've been been beaten up pretty bad this year,andquot; Pierce said.

While the team has suffered a number of injuries, including an early season injury to starting quarterback Dave Dickenson and a number of injuries on defense, the team still has a good record.

andquot;We're winning ball games and making strides and we're hoping to repeat again this year,andquot; Pierce said.

In professional sports, where teams are pretty even, little things-like injuries-can make all the difference in a successful year, or one of disappointment.

andquot;Our goal is to get everyone healthy,andquot; Pierce said.

Last season, Pierce had a year to remember, replacing an injured Dickenson and playing a vital role in helping the Lions make it to the Grey Cup-the CFL equivalent of the Super Bowl, where the Lions won the game and the title. On Monday, Pierce could be seeing wearing his championship ring at the high school.

Last year, he threw for 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Pierce is in town this week visiting his family in Gasquet. He planned the trip before the injury, which is during a bye week in the football season.

andquot;I like to come back and see everybody,andquot; Pierce said. andquot;It's really a slower pace here. We've been going pretty fast and pretty hard since May.andquot;

Before the start of the season, Pierce signed a two-year contract with the Lions through the 2008 season. Pierce said he has loved the opportunity of playing in Canada and in the city of Vancouver.

andquot;It's been a great experience,andquot; he said. andquot;I couldn't ask for more from a city and an organization. The organization has stood behind me through everything and they have stuck with me. It's hard for a player to find that on this level.andquot;

Pierce said the fan support in Vancouver has been tremendous, and they show a lot of support and enthusiasm for the team and the game.

And, Pierce said, the support of the fans here in Crescent City means a lot to him, knowing many people here track his games through the Internet, and that local fans listen to radio games through the Web.