The best defence in the east is about to meet the best defence in the west. But now is not the time to argue over who is No. 1 in the CFL.
“At this point, it doesn’t really matter,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson, a big reason why Winnipeg‘s secondary was such a force this season and why the team is heading to Vancouver to play the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup.
“We’re going into a game against them in the championship,” added Johnson. “Maybe they were the best defence in the west, we were the best defence in the east. Two great defences going against each other in a big game, that’s what we look forward to.”
For coach Paul LaPolice, who guided the Bombers to the playoffs after finishing 2010 at 4-14, the work ethic that got them to Vancouver is what really counts. And he isn’t terribly concerned that they are viewed as underdogs after beating Hamilton 19-3 in the East Final.
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“It doesn’t really matter,” LaPolice said Monday at the team offices next to Canad Inns Stadium, which saw it’s last CFL game Sunday. The Bombers move to their new facility on the grounds of the University of Manitoba next season.
“These guys … they’re going to be excited just to be playing in the game, whether they’re favourites or underdogs. Certainly B.C. being at home is going to put them in a position of a lot more comfort for them but we’ve certainly done well on the road this year.”
In fact, they already have one win in Vancouver this year and went on to beat the Lions in both their regular-season encounters.
The Bombers finished the regular season at 10-8 while the Lions were at 11-7, both atop their respective divisions.
One of the things LaPolice says he likes about the team is the lack of grumbling – publicly at least – as he moved players around this season to find the right mix.
There’s no question quarterback Buck Pierce is anxious to win the final game of the season in Vancouver, where he started his CFL career in 2005. He joined the Bombers after getting released by the Lions in 2009.
“Really, there’s no motivation needed right now,” said Pierce. “It’s one game away and one shot. We’re going out there with a purpose. It’s a business trip for us. We’re excited where we are but it’s not done yet.”
Win or lose on Sunday, the Bombers have gone through a major turnaround in one year. That can be seen in the demand for tickets as Winnipeg set a new all-time record for season sales as they prepare to move to their new, larger home.
The Bombers continue to surprise.
The most potent weapon fielded by the Winnipeg offence in their rout of Hamilton was running back Chris Garrett, who was released after training camp this season only to be picked up again and get real playing time after injuries sidelined top running back Fred Reid and backup Carl Volny.
“I don’t think that you could write a better story for me or for anyone for that matter,” said Garrett, who rated his 190-yard performance on 29 carries Sunday, plus one dramatic final touchdown on the last play of the game, as one of the best games of his career.
“To me it didn’t feel like 29 carries … I’m willing to do more, it was fun.”