WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have one thing the Calgary Stampeders do not possess as they head into their last regular season game this weekend — control of their own destiny.
Win and the Bombers are No. 1 in the East and can rest until the Eastern Final. Lose and they have to hope the cards fall their way with Montreal losing to the B.C. Lions, which would still put the Bombers into top spot.
That’s life in the CFL, where five teams sit with the same 10-7 record as the season ends. All five are waiting to see who will have to work a little harder to make the finals.
History doesn’t seem to be on Winnipeg’s side, with their last win at McMahon Stadium in 2002. Still, coach Paul LaPolice insists he isn’t losing sleep over the long losing streak.
“The last time I coached on this staff as an assistant coach we won in ’02,” he said after practice Wednesday.
“You can’t look to the past. What this team did five years ago has no bearing on this game.”
He noted that a dropped pass in the end zone dashed Winnipeg’s hopes of ending the steak last season.
The Bombers are resting their hopes on backup quarterback Alex Brink, with starter Buck Pierce out once again with an injury — this time a sprained knee.
The team also have a maddening habit this year of winning the tough games and losing the ones that should be easy. Perhaps that’s good, since Calgary looks anything but easy.
LaPolice knows it will be a tough fight with Calgary riding high on new quarterback Drew Tate, who won his last two games since replacing Henry Burris.
“Drew Tate just has this ability to make plays out of nothing,” he said. “I think he makes everybody around him play harder.”
Brendon LaBatte also knows fans are going to be in their face, as the Stampeders fight for their own post-season life — needing both a win and some bad fortune for the other guys if they want to come out on top.
“Our biggest thing is just going to be able to weather the storm and go in their and execute our game plan.” said LaBatte, the Bomber nominee this season for most outstanding offensive lineman.
But he says the team has good chemistry on the road and entering hostile territory amps that up.
“I prepare every game expecting to win,” added Jovon Johnson, a triple winner Wednesday as Winnipeg’s most outstanding player, most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding special teams player.
“I don’t look at the stats.”
The Bombers will be playing without the services of Johnny Sears Jr., serving his one-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit with Toronto Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles, a former Bomber. Sears opted not to appeal and risk missing a playoff game.
Whether LaPolice agreed with that decision or not, he wasn’t saying.
“It being out of our control let’s move on and like we’ve done before win games without guys and we’ll get him back,” he said.
“I did not think he should have been suspended but I don’t get to make that call and I’ll side with what the league had to say.”