Blue aiming for winning clinch

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are closing in on a CFL playoff spot about as quickly as molasses.

In January.

In Churchill.

Glaciers travel faster than the Bombers are currently moving in the chase for their first playoff berth since 2003.

None of this, however, concerns Bombers head coach Doug Berry, who said yesterday that his team is right on track.

"When you're playing to the 9-and-9-type season that we're in right now, we're right on schedule," Berry stated. "And that's about where I had hoped we'd finish, somewhere in this area of eight, nine or 10 wins.

"That's what I'm very comfortable with, and hopefully we'll get No. 8 this week."

The Bombers (7-8) returned to the practice field yesterday after their second and final bye week, which resulted in a 10-day break. They will meet the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-12) at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

If the Bombers win, they're in the playoffs.

However, if the Edmonton Eskimos lose to the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday, the Bombers will be in the playoffs without having to win on Sunday or their other two remaining games against Calgary and B.C.

The Bombers have lost six of their last eight games, so their magic number has been trimmed more by other teams' failures than their own success. The magic number dropped to one on Monday when Edmonton lost to Toronto.

Sophomore defensive end Gavin Walls could have gone home to Arkansas during the bye week, but instead he chose to remain in Winnipeg to get ready for the Ticats.

Walls said it's imperative the Bombers go into the playoffs on a positive note.

"To not sugarcoat it, we need this win," Walls said. "Every guy on this team should do everything possible to get this win, whether it's scratching or scraping.

"... It's a good thing Edmonton lost, but we can't rely on nobody else."

Berry pointed out that, with the exception of a 43-9 loss to Calgary on Sept. 16, his team has played relatively well in its last four outings. Three more solid performances are all he wants.

"We could be playing pretty good football here at the end if we keep the games close with Calgary and B.C.," Berry said. "And all we want to be able to do is get to the playoffs and then have the feeling like we can play with anybody."

A home playoff game is all but out of reach for Winnipeg, because East Division-leading Montreal and Toronto are both 9-6. Offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek, however, would have no problem hitting the road.

"We're 4-3 on the road and 3-5 at home, so maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to go into Toronto or Montreal, where we've had success," he said. "It won't be a bad thing to be road warriors."


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