Task just that simple for Bombers

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

Parting this soon would not be sweet sorrow for anyone.

With the final crunch of the regular season on their doorstep, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can either earn a trip to the post-season with a victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium at noon today -- or go home.

"I don't want to say goodbye to these guys yet," Bombers head coach Mike Kelly said yesterday. "We've really created quite a bond in there (locker room)."

Of course, some fans will want to say goodbye to Kelly permanently if the Bombers fail on home field and finish the CFL season at 7-11 to miss the playoffs in his rookie campaign.

'BLUE OUT'

The players hope the fans will help them out by filling the stadium dressed in blue for the first 'Blue Out' in club history.

"We've been in playoff mode, so to speak, for some time but there's always been another game," said veteran Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown. "But now, we're in a game where there's some consequence and it's perform or pack up right now.

"We've really been inconsistent at home but if there is ever a day where we need to channel in with the fans and the support we're going to have, it's going to be (today) because it looks like it's going to be a full house and I think it's going to be a real emotional day for everybody and for this organization."

Should the Bombers emerge victorious, they will host the East Division semifinal against the same 'Cats next Sunday.

Hamilton has clinched a playoff spot but would host the semifinal against the B.C. Lions, who would cross over to the East after losing to the Edmonton Eskimos late Friday night, if the 'Cats beat the Bombers today.

"I can't think they have as much to play for as we do but they're going to be a pretty inspired bunch, especially for the underlying stories we all know -- who their starting quarterback is and all through the ranks of their coaching staff," Brown said.

Banished Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn will start for Hamilton with defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall among the ex-Bombers on the coaching staff.

"This is an important game but I don't want our guys to be overwhelmed by it," Kelly said. "I don't want all that 'do or die, in or out' stuff weigh too heavily on them. I tried to keep things as loose as I could all week long because we play better then. We play like a pack of wolves when we're just out there having fun and enjoying the game.

"I just want us to go out and be us and not be all tight about, 'Oh, if we don't win this game, what's going to happen tomorrow?' And stuff that goes along with that."

Kelly need not worry.

"It's got nothing to do with being uptight," said defensive back Lenny Walls. "You've just got to control your emotions as far as that is concerned. But being locked in is what you need at this point in the season.

"We're up for the challenge. We've been up for it all week. The passion's been there all week. The focus has been there all week. So, we've just got to go out there and take care of business."

Hamilton has not hosted a playoff game since 2001.

"We're playing for a home playoff game and we understand the significance of having a home playoff game," Glenn said. "The one thing is getting into the playoffs, but the second thing is positioning yourself in the playoffs, and that's getting a home playoff game if you can't get that first-round bye."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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