Blue Bombers employ one-two QB punch to advance to CFL West final

CALGARY — Zach Collaros is going back to where he started his CFL season, but wearing enemy colours.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers employed a one-two quarterback punch of Collaros and Chris Streveler to beat the Calgary Stampeders 35-14 in Sunday’s West Division semifinal.

The Bombers head to Regina for next Sunday’s West final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The victor there represents the West in the Grey Cup in Calgary on Nov. 24.

A Roughrider to start the season, Collaros was traded twice and arrived in Winnipeg on Oct. 9 via the Toronto Argonauts.

“Odd? I don’t know if it’s odd,” the 31-year-old pivot said. “It just so happens we’re going back to the place I started the year at.

“It is what it is. Things happen. I was fortunate enough a month ago that I was traded there at the deadline to this great organization with these great teammates.”

The Blue Bombers (11-7) finished third in the West Division behind the Roughriders (13-5) and Stampeders (12-6).

The Edmonton Eskimos (8-10) crossed over from the West to beat the Montreal Alouettes 37-29 earlier Sunday in the East Division semifinal.

The Esks take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in next Sunday’s East final.

Trailing 14-8 at halftime, the Bombers scored 27 unanswered points, including 20 in the fourth quarter, in front of an announced 24,278 at chilly McMahon Stadium.

Morning snowfall halted and gave way to partly cloudy skies at kickoff with a temperature of minus-14.

Collaros completed 11 of 21 pass attempts for 193 yards and one touchdown pass in his second straight start as a Bomber.

Streveler had taken over as Bombers’ starter when Matt Nichols went down with a shoulder injury in August.

Streveler was sidelined in Winnipeg’s regular-season finale with an ankle injury, but he returned Sunday to lead the Bombers in rushing with 82 yards including a 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“This guy’s a warrior. Toughest guy in the league,” Collaros said. “For sure in a game like tonight, it definitely helps. I’m sure it will help moving forward. Just the threat of that.

“Just the (opposing) team having to spend extra time for his abilities and for some of the things we do offensively, it definitely helps.”

Nic Demski and Darvin Adams scored touchdowns and Justin Medlock kicked four field goals for Winnipeg.

Reggie Begelton scored two touchdowns for the host Stampeders, who had appeared in three straight Grey Cup games and won last year in Edmonton.

But Calgary will not defend its title on home turf.

“Sometimes in football it’s, ‘are you better than the man across from you?” Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said. “Tonight we definitely were not.

“The reality is when you don’t play well in the playoffs, you’re one and done. You’re out. Just so happened to be a little earlier this year.”

Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was without his favourite target — injured receiver Eric Rogers — and struggled completing just 12 of 28 pass attempts for 116 yards.

Two of his three interceptions were in the fourth quarter.

“Didn’t execute when we had to,” Mitchell said. “Me and the receivers being a little bit off some things route-wise, yardage-wise, distance-wise. Didn’t have my stuff today.”

The Bombers had the advantage of playing Calgary three straight games — twice to end their regular season — and also ended the season on a bye week for extra semifinal prep.

“It was important,” acknowledged Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

Added Mitchell: “They did a good job switching up some of their coverages. Stuff they’ve been running all year, they did a great job lining up that way and then dropping into a different zone.”

Streveler ranked second in Bomber rushing with 726 yards behind CFL rushing leader Andrew Harris (1,380), who totalled 57 yards on the ground Sunday.

“They put out the story that Shreve had a broken foot and whether or not that’s actually true, it doesn’t really matter,” Mitchell said. “He came out and balled out.

“You could see they had plan to, as far as the weather, just trying to run the ball in different ways and they did a good job of that.”

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