It's like night and day

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

It was a scene that never would have happened last year on Maroons Road.

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly was asked the other day what happened on Alexis Serna's kickoff in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's pre-season game, an ugly boot to his left that almost landed in the eighth row.

Had it been last year, when the coach was Doug Berry, one can only imagine what the response to the question would have been.

To be fair, Berry was straight and to the point, because Serna wasn't exactly great during a rookie campaign in which he made only 66.7% of his field goals.

NOT ENOUGH REPS

This year, however, it Is already crystal clear that Kelly is going to take the opposite approach with Serna. He's going to be as nice as he possibly can.

How nice?

Nice enough to go so far as to take personal responsibility for Serna's ugly, out-of-bounds kickoff the other night.

"It was probably unfair on my part to have him try that type of kick, because we didn't practice it enough," Kelly said.

"So I'll take the blame for that. We needed to practise that type of kick more and we didn't get enough reps in on it, so that's my fault for that happening."

See? Night and day.

Without coming out and saying that his plan is already working, Kelly has essentially come out and said that his plan is already working.

"Look at the kid," Kelly said. "He's way more relaxed, he feels good about what he's doing, he's got some confidence right now, and we'll just try to keep building on that."

It should be noted that Serna's situation last year was nowhere near as comfortable as it is today.

Last June he arrived in Winnipeg for his first pro season just as Berry was shoving 17-year veteran Troy Westwood out the door. Then when he struggled, the booing was relentless.

Berry would tear a strip off Serna in his post-game press conference, but the Oregon State product would still be in the lineup a week later because his name wasn't Westwood.

Not only that, but Serna's holder was the since-released Jamie Stoddard, a strong Westwood ally.

So no matter how hard they might have tried, their bond and chemistry were never going to be remarkably strong.

This year Serna is sitting in Westwood's old corner of the locker-room, he has hand-picked Canadian receiver Aaron Hargreaves to be his new holder, he has no placekicking competition in camp, and the new boss is in his corner.

The closest Serna came to criticizing the former regime is when he said "we're just trying to get a little bit more of a winning attitude" this year.

"The coaching staff is awesome here, too, and they're very supportive, and the team's very supportive," the 24-year-old said.

We'll let you read between the lines.

Hargreaves, who will have job security as long as Serna is splitting the uprights, became good friends with the kicker last season, mainly because they were both rookies who were far away from home. Now they form an important duo.

"It's kind of fun, too," Hargreaves said of his holding duties. "It's an underrated position, but I'm just making sure that I know all my responsibilities and just put him in a position to make a good kick."

Yet another man who will be behind Serna this season, every kick of the way.


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