HAMILTON - With so much on the line in Sunday’s Eastern final, so much will depend on who wins the coin toss.
More than any play, that singular, pre-game moment could very well decide which team advances to the Grey Cup, an outcome that hasn’t been lost on the Ticats.
“Winning the toss will be important, vying for the wind in the fourth quarter,’’ head coach Marcel Bellefeuille acknowledged on Wednesday, a day when the Ticats returned to the practice field following last Sunday’s semifinal win in Montreal.
Heads or tails, take the wind in the second and fourth quarters, milk the clock when going into the wind and hope any attempted punt gets past the line of scrimmage as the winds whip up in the Peg.
Bellefeuille says he’s not the superstitious type, preaching no preference for a head or a tail.
Ultimately, he says, it’ll come down to his team’s captains when they walk to mid-field at Canad Inns Stadium and announce their selection.
“Fifty percent of the times it’s heads,’’ deadpanned Bellefeuille. “You can do the rest of the math.”
To belittle the coin toss would be foolish and naive.
In wind games, which is often the case in the prairies, there’s no bigger play than the coin toss, which becomes even more important at this time of the year with the stakes so high.
When the Argos visited the Peg in late October for the Bombers’ final regular-season game at the venerable venue, Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice admitted he has a separate return unit for the wind and when going against the wind.
At the time, the Bombers were coming off an emotional comeback win over Montreal, a victory that vaulted Winnipeg into first place.
Facing a double-digit deficit heading into the fourth quarter, the Bombers would storm back to pull out a 26-25 win, scoring 16 points with the benefit of the wind.
In hindsight, that win would ultimately prove to be the margin Winnipeg needed to play host to this Sunday’s game.
Had Winnipeg not won the coin toss, the venue for the East final might have been indoors at Olympic Stadium, which witnessed the highest-scoring playoff game in CFL history last week when Hamilton emerged with a 52-44 win in overtime.
“It’s huge,’’ Bellefeuille said of the coin toss. “Getting the wind in the fourth quarter is important in these types of games.
“They (Bombers) know that and we know that. Whomever wins the toss will have that opportunity.”
Adjustments in game planning and scheming must be made on the fly based on the wind.
Teams have to take advantage of opportunities with the wind by ensuring field position is never compromised.
Ticat offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones spent many windy days in Winnipeg as the team’s starting quarterback, learning how to deal with the wind and appreciating what works and what doesn’t work in the conditions.
According to Jones, he felt it was easier to throw against the wind, provided a quarterback is able to execute a perfect spiral on the ball.
“When throwing into the wind you don’t have to worry about the ball flying up on you,’’ said Jones. “What’s important when throwing into the wind is to be committed to (throwing) it and putting everything into it.
“As soon as you don’t get a good spiral, that ball is going everywhere.”
When throwing with the wind, Jones says the key is making sure the tail of the ball stays down.
But more than anything, Jones believes, the kicking game will have an even greater impact based on the wind.
The winner may actually be determined even before the opening kickoff or before the first tackle is produced or block made.