Bombers vs. Argos: The end of the openers

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:33 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It’s the Bombers and Argos, the CFL’s most beloved losers against the team that has trouble winning hearts even in their own city.

A healthy crowd built on a record season-ticket base will come close to filling Wrecking Ball Stadium Friday night, and very few will be cheering for the Argos.

Which should make them feel right at home.

“It brings us together as a team when we can play in someone else’s stadium and quiet their crowd, and have them boo their quarterback and their team,” Toronto’s own wrecking ball, running back Cory Boyd, was saying, Thursday.

It’s true, we’ve heard our share of Bronx cheers here in the last few years.

Winnipeg’s Doug Brown, for one, says it has to stop, that it’s time to re-establish just who is boss on Maroons Road.

“Last year we wasted our time out here,” the big man said, referring to the four-win debacle.

“We didn’t make any impression ... this is our opportunity to do something that hasn’t happened in a while, here. It’s a step towards correcting what the expectations are, in terms of this franchise being one of the most formidable in the CFL. It’s a big Step No. 2.”

Never mind formidable. How about simply opening the season 2-0, something that hasn’t happened here since Dave Ritchie was calling the shots and Charles Roberts was dodging defenders.

Eight years later, it’s Boyd versus Fred Reid, a glimpse at what figures to be another 18-week derby for the CFL rushing crown.

“It ain’t about who’s the better running back,” Boyd said. “It’s about who’s the better team.”

That’ll depend partly on the quarterbacks, of course, a study in contrasts if there ever was one.

The Argos Cleo Lemon simply tries to play within himself, and “let the game come to me.”

Winnipeg’s Buck Pierce, on the other hand, will go out and get it, no matter who’s standing in his way and what harm might befall him.

The Argos vaunted D-line, having watched The Hit in Hamilton on film, is no doubt drooling all over the carpet in anticipation of similar opportunities to separate Pierce from his body.

The best front four in the loop?

Don’t tell that to Winnipeg’s Odell Willis.

“You look at the stats, we had the best D-line last year, if I’m not mistaken,” Willis argued. “Three out of four CFLPA all-stars. You tell me who had the best D-line.”

The sideline matchup is fascinating, too.

Toronto’s is run by Jim Barker, who narrowly missed out on the GM’s job here, one year ago.

The man who beat him out, Joe Mack, turned to the inexperienced Paul LaPolice to run his team.

Just over a year later, Barker is winning that argument, 10 wins to five, and fast developing a reputation as a man who squeezes the most from what he has.

Coach LaPo? So far, a nice guy who doesn’t plan on finishing last, again.

In the kicking game, there couldn’t be a more different buzz surrounding the men who call the shots.

Toronto’s Mike O’Shea is one of the CFL’s hot commodities for his dynamic work, Winnipeg’s Kyle Walters, on the hot seat for his.

It’s two teams that surprised everybody but themselves, it seems, in winning their openers on the road, but who still have their share of skeptics.

“It’s a division opponent, and somebody we have to kind of climb over to get into the playoffs,” Mack said. “That makes it a big game, also.”

They’re also touting it as the final home-opener before the wrecking ball swings, which depends on the House the NDP Built being completed on time, down at the U of M.

If that holds true, you can weld another angle of intrigue onto this one.

“Oh, wow. With all the tradition and great games played here, it’s important we end it that way,” Pierce said.

“With a win.”


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