Back to back biggies for Bombers

Blue Bombers QB Buck Pierce yawns during the Bombers’ indoor practice, Wednesday at Canad Inns...

Blue Bombers QB Buck Pierce yawns during the Bombers’ indoor practice, Wednesday at Canad Inns Stadium. (Winnipeg Sun)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 PM ET

The marathon known as the 18-game Canadian Football League regular season is merely starting to heat up.

So while it’s true the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are only approaching the 1/3 pole of the campaign on Saturday, the importance of the next two games against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats can’t be overstated.

The teams split the two previous games, with the Blue Bombers earning an impressive 49-29 victory in the season opener and the Ticats responding with a lopsided 28-7 triumph in Week 3.

The Blue and Gold are 2-3 and coming off a strong showing against the Calgary Stampeders, while the Tiger-Cats were beaten by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and are limping along at 1-4 but still right in the thick of things.

For those of you keeping score, the Blue Bombers are 2-1 at home and 0-2 on the road and with three of the next four games away from Canad Inns Stadium, a couple of W’s could go a long way to determining where they finish in the standings.

There’s plenty on the line for both clubs in Saturday’s showdown at Ivor Wynne and the rematch next Friday at Canad Inns Stadium.

“It’s got implications that will definitely make their mark at the end of the year,” said Blue Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown.

“We need to start winning games on the road. You need to win at least half of your road games if you want to be in contention in this league.”

The storylines figure to be plentiful as well.

Whether it’s this week or next, Bomber pivot Buck Pierce is expected to return to the lineup against the team that knocked him out with a sprained knee.

The Bombers are also about to begin life after Ike Charlton at the strong side linebacker position and the question remains — can Clint Kent or Bernard Hicks eventually do what Phillip Hunt has done in replacing former sackmaster Gavin Walls?

Those are just a few of the issues the Bombers need to resolve in the coming weeks.

On the other sideline, former Bomber quarterback Kevin Glenn is enjoying a great season individually (he’s third in passing with 1,515 yards and eight touchdowns to go against three picks) and former Bomber receiver Arland Bruce III is coming off a performance that saw him tie the CFL record for receptions in a game (16) and produce 272 yards.

Throw in the fact these two teams are likely to be battling for a playoff spot at the end of the season and it stands to reason there should be plenty of fireworks.

“This is a very special week-to-week for us, they’re the biggest games on our schedule thus far,” said Blue Bombers centre Obby Khan. “Everyone who follows the CFL knows that it comes down to the wire. With 18 games, you’re usually neck-and-neck with a couple of teams.

“If we can win this week and next week, we have an opportunity to hold the tie-breaker and that’s huge. It can put us in a position to have more success as the post-season approaches.”

Even Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice — a stickler for staying in the now and focusing solely on the task at hand — has softened his stance slightly.

“What we told the players is that if you can win the game on the road, it puts a lot of pressure on them to come here and beat us,” said LaPolice. “We want to make sure we play well on the road, get the two points and then force them to come into our house and put some pressure on them.”

And if there was any possible motivation required, the Bombers haven’t forgotten the sting of the beating they took at Ivor Wynne on July 16.

“We’re creating quite a rivalry with those guys,” said Brown. “They did quite a number on us the last time and we have to make amends on our return trip.”

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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