Silence is golden

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

REGINA -- Labour Day weekend in the Saskatchewan capital officially got noisy yesterday at 2:49 a.m. local time.

That's when someone, presumably a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan, decided it was the perfect time to start blasting an air horn from his (or her) Regina Inn balcony.

As loud as that air horn was, it will be nothing compared to the crowd at Mosaic Stadium today when the Bombers take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 41st Labour Day Classic (3 p.m., TSN/CJOB).

The buzz surrounding this year's game seems to be, well, louder than in years past, as it should be; the winner of today's match will -- at the very least -- have a share of the best record in the CFL.

WINNING STREAK

The Bombers lead the East Division at 5-2-1, while the Riders (6-2) are one point back of the B.C. Lions (6-2-1) in the West with today's game in hand.

If the Roughriders, who are on a four-game winning streak, jump out to an early lead today, expect the decibel level to reach eardrum-splitting heights -- even if there are 4,000 or so Bombers fans in attendance.

Winnipeg slotback Milt Stegall, participating in his 10th Classic, said his team cannot afford its characteristic slow start today. The Bombers, outscored 59-25 in the first quarter this season, have shown they can come back from slow starts, but it will be a different scene at Mosaic.

If the Blue and Gold get behind, Classic history shows their deficit could easily snowball out of control.

"It could be a whole lot different," Stegall said. "They'll get those fans behind them, and a lot of people don't think that's a big deal, but it is.

"When you have your home crowd, fans are screaming, and we can't hear (quarterback) Kevin (Glenn) screaming out audibles or anything. You can't hear nothing."

The passion with which Riders fans treat Labour Day has even spooked Saskatchewan offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek.

The former Bomber was surprised to see thousands of people turn out yesterday to watch their walk-through practice and to snag autographs afterward.

"I just thought we were going to have an empty stadium to run through a couple plays, and there's about 3,000 crazy people out here," Abou-Mechrek said. "So I don't know. I'm still trying to sort it all out."

To keep the place quiet this afternoon, Barrin Simpson said the Bombers have to limit the high-flying Riders offence (first in the CFL in points scored) to small chunks of real estate.

"Their offence is a big-play offence," the middle linebacker said. "They're not getting the 400- and 500-yard games, but they're making big plays when it counts. So we gotta focus on not giving up the big play and not letting Kerry Joseph extend the play."

To that end, Bombers defensive end Tom Canada plans to introduce himself to the Riders quarterback as often as he can.

SMACK HIM

"We need to smack him -- smack him around and kind of razz him and get him out of his rhythm," Canada said.

Aside from grabbing the bragging rights going into next Sunday's Banjo Bowl rematch in Winnipeg, the Bombers, who have won four of their last five, can also take a three-point lead over the Montreal Alouettes in the East with a victory today.

The Als were shredded 46-14 by the B.C. Lions late Friday night.

"We're looking for a bye week this year going into the playoffs," running back Charles Roberts said, "and to do that we gotta keep winning."

Simpson is ready to do just that in the most intense atmosphere of the season.

"Fans are going to be crazy and drunk," he said. "... It's going to be a fun game."


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