Stegall denied

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

The scene couldn't have been better set.

A sellout home crowd -- when's the last time the Blue Bombers opened the season with two of those? -- his wife and son in the stands and one touchdown away from CFL immortality.

This was going to be Milt Stegall's day, you could smell it in the rain that poured down shortly after the opening kickoff.

After coming tantalizingly close against Montreal a week earlier, surely nothing could stop the Bombers' No. 85 from taking his rightful place atop the league's all-time touchdown list.

The greatest home run hitter the Canadian game has ever known, taking that trademark stride into the end zone for a record 138th time to a thundering ovation from--hey, who messed with the Hollywood script?

The Edmonton Eskimos, of all people.

The same Eskimos who were victimized by The Miracle at Commonwealth, the 100-yarder that'll go down as Stegall's most memorable touchdown of them all.

At least, until the next one. Whenever that may come.

At this rate, it might take all year. Teams are covering Stegall like he's a newborn in a snowstorm. We're talking heavy blankets.

The closest we got to a Stegall touchdown was when a fan wearing No. 85 went the length of the field, hopped a five-foot fence and disappeared.

Stegall's line last night read five catches, two penalties, a drop -- and one locker-room outburst.

"It was not a distraction!" No. 85 bellowed, as quarterback Kevin Glenn answered questions nearby. "Stop asking those dumb questions!"

And so it was, as the Bombers lost for the first time this season, 19-15. Let us count the ways why.

Starting with the start. Again.

For the third straight game, the Bombers offence came out like they thought the start time was an hour later. Actually, this was even worse than Weeks 1 and 2. Must have been the 6 p.m. kickoff.

There was a Glenn interception. A Charles Roberts fumble. But those were nothing compared with the special teams nightmares.

I mean, giving up a successful onside punt and allowing the other team to recover its own kickoff, both in the first half?

Oh, and I almost forgot about the two blocked punts. Poor Rob Pikula. I've seen better protection on a Saturday night on Higgins Avenue, for crying out loud.

Pikula's nightmare included not one, but two of his long snappers going down with injuries.

To put this in perspective, long snappers generally get hurt about once every world war. And the Bombers lose two in the space of a couple of hours?

"I've never seen that before," Pikula said.

Word is head coach Doug Berry was asking the nearest hot dog vendor if he could bend over and fire tight spirals, but the guy looked at him like he was nuts.

The mess led to one heck of an adventure for the punter, who saw No. 2 snapper Brian Guebert loft one way over his head.

"I got a couple blocked because of bad timing or slow snaps," Pikula said, shaking his head. "I'm, like, 'What's going to happen next?' "

Who says there's nothing to Friday the 13th?

Berry did, that's who. On Thursday. Somebody direct him to the nearest rabbit's foot. Nail a horseshoe over his door. Plant some four-leaf clovers in his back yard.

When Kamau Peterson's touchdown beats you, well, there's some bad karma around.

Actually, the boss is lucky he's got a defence that kept his team in the game. The dirty dozen gave up just one big play, a 47-yard run by Ron McClendon on third-and-short. And it held when it absolutely had to, with a minute to go.

Most nights, that'd be good enough.

This night, it wasn't.

Look at the bright side: the Bombers may have found a new star receiver in backup defensive lineman Jon Oosterhuis, who scored Winnipeg's only touchdown.

Maybe it's time to start the Oosterhuis watch.


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