Bring on the Als

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

Six weeks ago, the idea of beating the mighty Montrealers at their home park was almost unthinkable. But this Winnipeg Blue Bombers squad has a completely different outlook as it prepares to play the Alouettes in Montreal this Saturday. Even if the Als are a gaudy 11-1 and Winnipeg just 6-7.

"The Alouettes aren't unbeatable," Bombers slotback Jamie Stoddard said after Winnipeg defeated Toronto 44-34 on Saturday. "It's not like a David-versus-Goliath type of thing. We're not going to go in with a David-versus-Goliath mindset. If we work hard, like we have for the last five or six weeks, I think we can be successful.

"Obviously, it's going to be a tough game. It's always a tough game, especially going into Montreal with a hostile crowd like that and the change in time zones and all that stuff. But we can't worry about that. We're ready to step it up a notch. That's going to be a huge test, to see how we stack up against the top team in the league."

Although Montreal downed the Bombers 29-13 in Winnipeg a few weeks back, the game was actually closer than the score indicated. And the Bombers will head east riding a three-game winning streak.

"That's big," said kick returner Keith Stokes. "We're still trying to stay in the race for this playoff hunt and we've got to keep winning. We need that momentum going into the best team in the league right now."

And Saskatchewan is still breathing down their necks as the Roughriders pulled to within two points of the third-place Bombers in the CFL West with a 32-30 victory over Hamilton yesterday. And not only must the Bombers face the Als in Montreal this week but they fly to Vancouver to play the first-place western team the following week.

"Montreal and B.C. are playing really well but then, so are we," said Bombers GM Brendan Taman. "So, I see no reason for us to go into those games thinking we want to split them. Why not win both? Montreal's beatable, B.C.'s beatable and we're beatable. So, that's why we go play the games. But the way we're playing right now, there's no reason why we can't win both."

Winnipeg is also only two points behind second-place Edmonton after the Eskimos dropped a 33-30 overtime decision to the Lions in B.C. on Saturday.

"Beating Montreal right now's in our thoughts," Taman said. "From there, we'll see what happens. We're playing good football but we've got a long way to go."

The Bombers are now 4-2 since Jim Daley took over from Dave Ritchie as head coach.

"We've just got to continue to build on how we're playing," said veteran defensive end Elfrid Payton. "We go on the road now two weeks in a row against two very good football teams. So, that's going to be tough."

Daley said the focus remains on today, not tomorrow or yesterday.

"It doesn't matter where we were, it doesn't matter about where we'll be," he said. "It only matters about how we get ready today because that's how you accumulate enough of a performance to put yourself in a better position, as we've done. If I think about it a month ago or a month from now, we're not thinking about the step we have to take now."


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