'Peg fans test new recruits

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

You just knew some were ready to kick up a fuss before Winnipeg's pre-season game against the Montreal Alouettes even started last night.

With one of the club's all-time favourites suddenly banished last Sunday, you just knew the Blue Bombers faithful among the 29,553 in attendance at Canad Inns Stadium was ready to turn on any kicker who replaced veteran Troy Westwood.

And it did not take long for the boo birds to warm up their vocal chords.

A perfect snap bounced off punter Duncan O'Mahony's thumbs early in the second quarter and Montreal recovered the ball at the Winnipeg seven. And the boos rained down.

"The ball went off my thumbs," O'Mahony said. "I must have taken my eyes off the ball."

To his credit, O'Mahony came back and finished with a 40.6-yard average on five punts, although he did get the benefit of some friendly bounces.

"I wouldn't say I kicked smoothly after that but, as long as you keep improving, that's the bottom line, right?" said O'Mahony, who missed training camp. "You just need to get reps in to get into your rhythm and I never even really kicked in practice."

But there may have been even more focus on Alexis Serna, the vertically-challenged American placekicker who took over Westwood's field goal kicking duties without even attempting a three-pointer in a CFL game.

But the man head coach Doug Berry calls Mighty Mouse came through in flying colours.

Serna went 4-for-4, including the game-winner from 18 yards out with one second left.

"It was definitely a good game for me, I'm excited about it," Serna said.

D-FENCE: As usual, it was the Bomber defence that held the fort until the offence could get on track. It forced the Montreal offence to turn the ball over three times in the first half alone.

And it was an interception by rookie cornerback Willie Amos that turned the game around. Amos picked off an Adrian McPherson pass and returned it to the Montreal 11, setting up a game-tying field goal.

"It was a fun game, I had a great time," Amos said. "Of course, we know we had the cuts coming up and I couldn't think about that. All I wanted to come out here and have fun ... That's how I play in order to make it happen. I've just got to play my game."

Among the other rookies on defence, defensive end Nick McNeil and defensive lineman Josh Miller also made their presence felt.

CASEY CATCH: Meanwhile, rookie receiver Casey McGahee had to wait most of the game before getting his chance. Then he made a 49-yard catch to set up the game-winning field goal.

"I just took advantage of my opportunity. He just said, 'Go deep' and I caught the ball," said McGahee, who also had an 11-yard punt return. "The ball looked like a beach ball, it couldn't get there fast enough.

THE ANSWER: On the other side of the kicking game, it certainly looks like the Bombers have found their returner. Fred Reid, who had been limited to kickoff returns last season, was dangerous returning punts and missed field goals. In fact, the backup tailback returned a missed field goal 104 yards at the end of the first half. He also had a 16-yard punt return. Dan Sheldon also had a decent punt return but dropping a catchable first-down pass won't help his cause.


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