Fired up for playoffs

KIRK PENTON AND JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are one of the hottest teams heading into the CFL playoffs.

The Blue and Gold jumped out to a 26-7 lead with most of their starters yesterday afternoon at Canad Inns Stadium and then cruised to a 44-30 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the regular-season finale for both squads.

Winnipeg won for the sixth time in its last eight games and finished with a respectable 8-10 record despite starting out 1-6. The Ticats finished dead last in the CFL at 3-15.

The Bombers will host the Edmonton Eskimos (10-8), who finished fourth in the West Division, in Saturday's East semifinal at the Stadium.

"I don't think any team over the last two months in the entire CFL is playing any better football, at least won-loss record-wise, than we are," Bombers head coach Doug Berry said. "This is exactly the way you gotta be going to feel good about yourselves going into the playoffs.

"Coming from where we're coming from early in the year, we needed to have this type of strong finish to have a confidence that we can play in the playoffs."

'IN THE GROOVE'

One of the Winnipeg's primary goals against the Ticats was to not have anyone get hurt, but linebacker Ike Charlton (ankle) and safety Ian Logan (turf toe) both left the contest.

"Ike says he's going to be ready, so we'll see," Berry said. "(Logan) will probably be OK as well."

Kelly Malveaux, Anthony Malbrough, Joe Smith, Terrence Edwards and Jason Armstead sat out yesterday but are expected to be ready for the semifinal, as are three players who finished the regular season on the nine-game injured list: Kyle Koch, Barrin Simpson and Joe Lobendahn.

Quarterback Kevin Glenn had a solid tuneup for the playoffs in front of 24,595 spectators, completing 11 of 14 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, 85- and five-yarders to Romby Bryant, before leaving midway through the second quarter.

"It feels real good," Glenn said. "You want to carry that over, so the more in the groove you can feel throughout the game ... you want to seize the moment and get every opportunity you can out of it."

Bryan Randall, who is Winnipeg's new backup thanks to Ryan Dinwiddie's high ankle sprain, took over and completed six of 12 attempts for 61 yards.

Winnipeg running back Fred Reid ran wild, dashing 14 times for a career-high 160 yards.

Kicker Alexis Serna made all four of his field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder. It was Winnipeg's longest field goal since Troy Westwood booted a 52-yarder in 2004.

Serna has made 11 of his last 12 field goal attempts, and his punting yesterday, most of it into the wind, resulted in a solid 38.9-yard average. Berry brought Serna into his office earlier this week and told him that he believed in him.

"That helps out a lot," Serna said. "I'm going into the playoffs with some confidence right now, and I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job kicking and punting as well."

Defensively for the Bombers, Jovon Johnson returned an interception 50 yards for his second touchdown of the season, and the Ticat quarterbacks were sacked five times.

Winnipeg's special teams also contributed a touchdown, as Casey McGahee, filling in for Jason Armstead, had a 57-yard punt-return major.

Bryant had four catches for a team-high 104 yards, bringing his season total to 1,209 yards. Derick Armstrong had two catches for 20 yards and become the third Bomber to surpass the 1,000-yard mark this season, joining Bryant and Edwards.

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BOMBERS REPLAY

GAME NOTES

Top offensive player

Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn looked sharp for the second straight match. In just a quarter and a half, Glenn completed 11 of 14 passes for 166 yards, including an 85-yard TD toss to Romby Bryant. Glenn also ran twice for 14 yards and the Blue Bombers had a 26-10 lead when he left the game. Honourable mention to tailback Fred Reid, who rushed for 160 yards on 14 carries -- a CFL career best.

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Let's give the nod to the Winnipeg's Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Most Outstanding Canadian over a long list of contenders. Defensive tackle Doug Brown recorded two defensive tackles, a quarterback sack and forced a fumble. Honourable mention to cornerback Stanford Samuels who had two defensive tackles, one interception and three pass knockdowns.

TOP SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER

Winnipeg kicker Alexis Serna was 4-for-4 in field goals attempted, including one from 51 yards out and a 43-yarder into the wind. Serna's punts were also solid, especially when kicking into a strong wind.

KEY PLAY

Hamilton had just recovered a Casey McGahee fumble and was threatening to close a 32-23 gap early in the fourth quarter. But cornerback Stanford Samuels picked off an Adam Tafralis pass at the Winnipeg 10, returning it to the 19. Six plays later, kicker Alexis Serna booted a nine-yard field goal to take what turned out to be an insurmountable 35-23 lead.

SMACK OF THE MATCH

Winnipeg defensive end Kai Ellis knocked Hamilton quarterback Casey Printers out of the game with a crunching blow early in the third quarter.


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