Not Superman ... yet

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

So much for bringing in a kicker to compete with Alexis Serna.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Tuesday sent the three-year veteran packing, instead, and hung their hopes on someone who’s never attempted a professional field goal.

It appears Louie Sakoda, a 23-year-old who did some punting for Saskatchewan late last season, will be Winnipeg’s placekicker for a critical game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, here, Friday.

Word is the Bombers might still bring in former Ticat Nick Setta to compete for the job, but, for now, it’s Sakoda’s to lose.

“I’ve still got to earn the spot,” the San Jose native said after his first practice. “They have every right to bring in someone else. But (being the only kicker) allows you to focus on everything you need to. You’re not focusing on any competition, just with yourself.”

Sakoda hasn’t kicked a field goal in competition since college at Utah two years ago, where he hit 57 of 66 kicks for an 86% success rate.

“The last time I took a live snap was quite a while ago,” he acknowledged. “It’s my forte, kicking field goals. I feel like I’m back in the groove and just excited to kick ’em through the uprights.”

Head coach Paul LaPolice was impressed with what he saw from Sakoda’s first workout, downplaying suggestions he’s taking a big gamble.

“He kicked at a high level at a major Division 1 college,” LaPolice said. “And today he hit three of five from 48 to 50 yards and one hit the cross bar.

“Now, understand this: he will miss a field goal this year. He is not Superman. He’s not going to kick a 75-yarder. But we felt this would make us a better team.”

Sakoda isn’t a complete stranger, as LaPolice was in Saskatchewan last year and Bomber assistant Kavis Reed was the Riders special teams coach.

“He kind of knew what I could do as a field goal kicker, which probably helped get me here,” Sakoda said.

While Sakoda considers himself a field goal kicker first, he only punted for the Riders. His punting went south, though, this season, averaging just 33.9 yards before the Riders cut him last week.

“I got released last Monday from Saskatchewan, and I drove 20 hours back to Utah, was living in a friend’s basement, a couple days later I get this call and I’m out here,” Sakoda said. “You’ve got to love living out of your car and out of your suitcases.”

A first-team all-American placekicker in his final season at Utah, Sakoda went undrafted before a failed tryout with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers last year.

He said he didn’t know much about the controversial recent history of Bomber kickers, but he’ll have punter Mike Renaud to fill him in.

“With the wind and the fans it can be tough, absolutely,” Renaud said.

LaPolice says a kicker should have at least an 80% success rate, while being able to make the odd field goal from around 50 yards.

As for his range, Sakoda wasn’t ready to predict.

“I’ll get back to you on that,” he said.

This Friday would be a good time.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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