Simpson stoked to face Blue on Labour Day

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:54 PM ET

REGINA -- The sun was shining, there were more than 3,000 people in the stands at Mosaic Stadium for the annual Rider Fan Day, and Barrin Simpson was smiling.

Told he could play a role Sunday in handing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers their longest losing streak in 11 years, the Saskatchewan Roughriders middle linebacker got even giddier.

"Oh yes there's motivation there," the former Bomber said, pumping his fist after hearing that tidbit of information. "And it's a rival game. If that's not enough."

The Bombers (2-6) have not lost five in a row since dropping seven straight in the summer of 1999, and on Sunday the team and its fans will face the stomach-churning prospect of doing just that in the 48th Labour Day Classic against the arch rival Saskatchewan Roughriders (3 p.m., TSN).

Not that it's much of a rivalry anymore. The Riders (5-3) have won five in a row over the Blue and Gold dating back to their 2007 Grey Cup victory.

In addition, Saskatchewan leads the Labour Day Classic series 29-18 and has won five Prairie grudge matches in a row. Winnipeg's last victory in Regina was in 2004, when backup quarterback Kevin Glenn beat Henry Burris and the Riders 17-4.

Giving the Bombers and their fans hope this time around is the fact their No. 1 quarterback, Buck Pierce, will start on Sunday after missing four of the last five games with a sprained right knee.

"After watching him in practice we felt his mobility was good, we felt he was throwing the ball very well, locating it, and we'll give him an opportunity to play," head coach Paul LaPolice said Saturday at the team's downtown Regina hotel.

"The two games he played at the beginning of the year, you can say he was as good as any quarterback in the Canadian Football League. That's a guy you want on your side."

Despite the current four-game skid and a tough schedule on the horizon, there is much more positivity among the Bombers than there was, say, when Doug Berry, now Saskatchewan's offensive co-ordinator, opened the 2008 season with four straight losses or when Jim Daley, now the Riders' special teams co-ordinator, did the same thing in 2005.

"The losing streak I couldn't care less about," centre Obby Khan said. "The bottom line is that at the end of the year we'll see where we are. And if we make the playoffs with a losing streak, who gives a crap? That's the bottom line."

Khan, like everyone else wearing Blue and Gold, believes it's going to turn around, even though the team occupies the East Division basement. Khan is not sure when that revival will happen, but he's certain it will because of the solid leadership and direction that has been put in place.

"It's very hard to turn around an organization in one year, but we can see that happening," Khan said. "That's why people are so positive around here and that's why all the players are so upbeat, because we see the changes.

"Whether they happen now or whether they happen in six months or next season or at the end of this season is yet to be seen. But that's why everyone's so upbeat."

Perhaps he was simply paying lip service on the eve of the biggest game of the year for both teams' fans, but Simpson believes the Bombers aren't far from being contenders.

"They have a good football team over there," he said. "It's a matter of putting it together, but we want to make sure we disrupt them putting it together."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos