Bombers' young guns right on target

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:45 PM ET

It wasn’t only CFL veterans like Buck Pierce, Terrence Edwards and Doug Brown who shone in the season-opener on Friday night.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers can feel good about the fact that many of their youngsters, some of whom were appearing in their first professional games, didn’t look out of place in the 49-29 triumph over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium.

Here’s a look at a few of the young guns and how they fared:

— Defensive halfback Alex Suber got to see a lot of CFL veteran Arland Bruce, who’s about to crack the top 30 in CFL career receiving yards, but the former Bomber managed only three catches for 44 yards.

“It feels good, man, to go out there and just be in it,” said Suber, who was in on breaking up a pair of passes intended for Bruce. “It’s a dream to play pro ball. It’s just a good feeling.

“I was confident but a little nervous until that first play. I was good after that.”

— Linebacker Courtney Smith didn’t start the game, but he platooned with rookie Marcellus Bowman at the weak-side spot and found enough time to record his first career interception off of Kevin Glenn.

“It felt real good,” said Smith, who appeared in four games with the B.C. Lions last season as a special teamer. “It was one of those things where you’re like, ‘Man, I got the ball in my hand! I’m running!’ It was like a frozen moment.”

Smith also knocked down a pass on the play before his pick.

— It was also a night of firsts for a pair of third-year CFLers in Brady Browne and Pierre-Luc Labbe, who teamed up to score a pivotal special teams touchdown late in the second quarter.

Browne got things going when he recorded his first career punt block, on Justin Palardy, and it resulted in Labbe scoring his first CFL touchdown when he pounced on the loose pigskin in the end zone.

“He does owe me dinner,” Browne said of Labbe. “There, it’s on the record.”

Head coach Paul LaPolice said special teams boss Kyle Walters predicted a punt block earlier in the week, and Browne saw the play unfold in his mind before it happened.

“We called punt block,” the former University of Manitoba Bison cornerback said. “They do slide protection, so you just gotta believe that they won’t be in that hole where you’ll be. I hit the hole, and, honestly, I actually visualized it before. I said, I’m going to block this kick. I don’t know what it was.

“It opened, and the guy played soft on me, and I just jumped. All I see is Frenchie (Labbe) and everyone running after the ball.”

Labbe, a backup linebacker by trade, had actually done a touchdown dance before.

“My last touchdown was in college with Sherbrooke,” Labbe said. “I lined up on offence and caught a ball. It’s been a while.

“It was very special, the timing. Brady Browne made the play. I just jumped on it and recovered the ball. The credit is to the coaches who called pressure at the right time.”

Crediting the coaches? Good call. It appears these young Bombers have not only the skills, but the smarts as well.

— Rookie receivers Terrence Jeffers-Harris and Cory Watson also recorded their first CFL receptions on Friday. Watson, who shared a starting spot with Aaron Hargreaves, had one catch for 15 yards, while Jeffers-Harris had three grabs for 20 yards.

Jeffers-Harris also returned three kickoffs for 26 yards.

— With files from Jim Bender

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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