Zach Collaros is set to make his Winnipeg Blue Bombers debut, as the Blue and Gold square off with the Calgary Stampeders for the second time in as many weeks. The teams are set to meet at IG Field on Friday evening with playoff implications aplenty.
Collaros was acquired from the Toronto Argonauts at the trade deadline, but was still recovering from the concussion he suffered in Week 1. The eight-year CFL veteran took first team reps all week and feels ready to take on one of the league’s premier teams.
“I’m going to be as prepared as I possibly can be for the game,” Collaros told BlueBombers.com. “The one calming thing, no matter who’s going into the huddle, is the group of guys there. It’s a very, very locked-in veteran group of guys. That communication is something I really haven’t been a part of… the way that they communicate protections that communicate coverage, hot adjustments.”
In typical Canadian football fashion, the teams’ Week 19 meeting came down to the final play. A late Streveler heave came up short, giving Calgary a 37-33 victory.
It was far from smooth sailing for the Stamps, who gave up 24 points in the second quarter, but Bo Levi Mitchell’s 337 passing yards and three touchdowns to Reggie Begelton were enough to see off the Bombers.
“We went into the locker-room knowing that in the first half we didn’t play our football,” defensive back Raheem Wilson told Stampeders.com. “As far as effort, tackling, our adjustments and calls, we weren’t playing Stampeders defence. We just came out and we had a different energy and a mindset towards it. We were never nervous, we never doubted, but we knew that we were capable of playing better.”
Winnipeg topped Calgary when they met on Aug. 8. The 26-24 decision for the Bombers was Nick Arbuckle’s penultimate start before Mitchell returned from the injured list.
Calgary, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan are jockeying for position as the playoffs loom, but Friday’s game could bring some clarity to the West Division. If the Bombers lose at IG Field, their hopes of hosting a playoff game will be dashed.
Should the Stamps win, they will clinch a home playoff date. Moreover, if the Stamps pull out the victory and the Roughriders lose, Calgary will guarantee themselves as hosts of the Western Final on Nov. 17.
“We’ve been preaching that we’ve been in the playoffs for the last two weeks now,” offensive lineman Derek Dennis said. “I think these games are monumental because it’s getting them ready for what we’re going to have to do next month. Especially in the CFL, this is the time of year when games get tougher physically, they get tougher mentally, and you’ve just got to push through it.”
The Blue Bombers are looking like they’ll be the only team in the league this season without a 1,000-yard receiver. Eugene Lewis is sitting on 983 yards for the Montreal Alouettes and still has two games to play, while the other seven clubs have had a wideout reach the mark. Winnipeg’s leading receiver is Kenny Lawler with 578 yards.
There have been two keys to the Bombers’ success offensively despite lacking a distinct number one target; Winnipeg has a well-balanced pass attack and their run game is elite.
In addition to Lawler, Darvin Adams, Lucky Whitehead and Andrew Harris are also over the 500-yard threshold, with Nic Demski sitting on 499. Meanwhile, Harris is by far leading the league in rushing, while Streveler was never shy to take off and use his feet during his handful of starts.
“It’s crunch time, for sure,” Demski said. “It’s pretty clear the attitude and the vibe that needs to happen here and a lot of veterans have spoken out about that. The younger players are feeling that, too. It’s a long season, but we all need to dial it in right now because there’s not many playoff games and once you lose, you’re going home.”
Calgary made a splash by signing American safety Dexter McCoil. The 2014 CFL Most Outstanding Rookie spent two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos, winning the 103rd Grey Cup in 2015. Despite having not appeared in a pro game since 2017, McCoil is slotted in as a backup linebacker for the matchup.
BY THE NUMBERS
2002 – The last time the Bombers won the season series with the Stampeders.
5 – Different tailbacks have started for Calgary this season. Ante Milanovic-Litre became the fifth last week and will do so again Friday.
10 – Straight field goals without a miss for Justin Medlock.
13 – Consecutive games with a touchdown pass for Bo Levi Mitchell. He also thrown for 300-plus yards in four of his last five starts.
– With files from BlueBombers.com and Stampeders.com
AFI, Yare Media and the CFL
American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2019 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.