Prairie smackdown

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

All these months later, Gavin Walls still has a nasty taste in his mouth.

He wants to get rid of it this Sunday in Regina.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end declared yesterday that even though the 42nd Labour Day Classic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders is a regular-season contest, a victory would feel sweet after last year's Grey Cup result.

The Riders edged the Kevin Glenn-less Bombers 23-19 at Rogers Centre last November to win the biggest Prairie battle of them all. Sunday's tilt is their first meeting since then, and Walls is hungry to start paying them back.

"It's time to rinse our mouth out with some good stuff now," he said. "They left us with a bitter taste. Now we need chew on something green. And I ain't talking about Doublemint."

While Bomber head coach Doug Berry brushed off this weekend's meeting, saying the teams have changed too much, Walls was having none of that. He thinks often about the Grey Cup, and just talking about it yesterday was getting the poor guy all worked up.

"It pops in my head a lot," he said. "It's one of those deals where we were in a situation to win the Grey Cup, but these things happen. It's football. We didn't get exactly what we deserved or worked hard for, so I guess it's a little unfinished business.

"We know who we got, and we don't forget. It's like an elephant. We don't forget. This is a big motivational boost for the team."

Not only are the Roughriders the defending champs, but they've also won the last three Labour Day Classics. That makes Walls even more fired up, although he talked about trying to keep his emotions in check.

"From a player standpoint, I don't like to look at it as (revenge) type stuff," he said. "But you just can't let that slip, because that hurt us last year, losing that game. And here we are. We get a chance to play the No. 1 team in the Labour Day Classic. So it's a big deal, man.

"... It's going to be a fun one to watch. Make sure you have a lot of popcorn."

Revenge is one thing, but turning around a dismal season thus far is more important, according to left tackle Alexandre Gauthier. The Bombers (2-6) can make some serious hay in the upcoming home-and-home with the Riders (6-2).

"If we win the next two, if we win the back-to-back, that can be the turning point of the season," Gauthier said.

But from a revenge standpoint, Winnipeg's sweeping the Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl would result in Saskatchewan's third and fourth losses in a row. Gauthier said while that would be a nice bonus, he's more concerned about the Blue and Gold.

"I want to do it for us. We need to win those two," he said. "In the same case, if we win those two they're going to lose it. So yes, it's a little extra (motivation), but I'm working for this team. I want this team to do good.

"I don't really care what Saskatchewan's record is going to be at the end. We just need to be in the big show at the end."


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