Season a success

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

They are in the playoffs for the first time in three years and that alone makes this CFL football season a success for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

At the start of the current campaign, this team was by no means a lock to return to the post-season for the first time since 2003. It was a team coming off a 5-13 debacle season, featuring a completely new coaching staff and a lineup full of question marks.

Today, the Bombers are 8-8, have clinched at least third place in the East and have a remote chance of moving up higher in the standings and hosting a playoff game.

Best of all, with the big game exactly a month away, the Bombers still have a shot -- albeit a long one -- of playing in the Grey Cup on their home turf.

That glimmer of hope is music to the ears of the people trying to sell tickets to the November classic at Canad Inns Stadium.

With two very tough games left on the schedule, the Bombers coaching staff, headed by Doug Berry, can also rest assured in the knowledge that their inaugural season has been successful.

The team is improved under Berry and has a decent shot of finishing the season with a .500 record and one of the top defensive units in the league. Last year, they were eight games under .500 and had the worst defence in the history of the CFL.

Berry should garner some coach of the year consideration, although that honour seems more likely to go to B.C.'s Wally Buono (despite that whole punting on first down thing), Toronto's Pinball Clemons or Calgary's Tom Higgins.

While they hardly set the world on fire in beating the woeful Hamilton Tiger Cats 29-22 last weekend in Steeltown, there were some very positive signs for Berry's Bombers.

They came from behind to win in the fourth quarter, they won without star receiver Milt Stegall, who was nursing a knee injury, and they got a very solid performance from quarterback Kevin Glenn.

More than ever, the Bombers need Glenn to step up and be a leader. In the playoffs, he will need to put the Bombers on his shoulders and lean on the experience and talent of Stegall and running back Charles Roberts to help carry the load.

Glenn's performance against Hamilton -- 24-for-35 for 325 yards and three TDs, with no interceptions -- was unquestionably a step in the right direction.

Now, don't get us wrong, we can see that there is still plenty to be concerned about with this Bomber team. The big question is, if they barely scraped by a horrendous Hamilton team, how are they going to compete with the likes of Toronto, Montreal, B.C. and Calgary in the playoffs?

We will find out before the playoffs begin.

The Bombers host the Stampeders (10-7) Saturday night and close out the regular season at B.C. Place against the Lions (11-5) on Oct. 28.

The biggest test will come against the Stamps, who made the Bombers look like a high school team in a 43-9 drubbing last month in Cowtown.

Although the Stamps have little to play for this week -- they are already guaranteed to finish second in the West -- it is a huge game for the Bombers, who, with a little help, can still catch Toronto and Montreal for first and second place in the East.

More importantly, the Bombers need to prove they can win two games in a row, that they can be a dominant force on their home field, and that they can hold a candle to high-powered Stampeders.

Calgary will likely play some backups in parts of the game, minimizing the risk of injury to stars like Henry Burris and Joffrey Reynolds, and that might open the door for the Bombers to boost their confidence level with a victory.

A win this week will go a long way toward turning the Bombers into contenders -- and the fans into believers.


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