MONTREAL - Beating the Montreal Alouettes takes focus, commitment and attention to detail.
So when four of 42 players, or nearly 10% of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster, missed the team flight to Montreal on Saturday morning, it had to be troubling for those who are focused on winning the first-place showdown on Sunday afternoon at Molson Stadium.
It sure was aggravating for head coach Paul LaPolice, whose team has lost two in a row after a 7-1 start and doesn’t need any distractions as it attempts to get out of its funk.
The Bombers (7-3) can take a four-point lead on the Alouettes (6-4) atop the East Division, or they’ll be tied with seven games left.
Cornerback Deon Beasley forgot his photo identification at home and wasn’t allowed on the plane, while starting defensive end Kenny Mainor, his backup Fernand Kashama and special teamer Jerry-Ralph Jules were travelling to the airport together and blamed car trouble for missing the 10 a.m. flight.
All four were scheduled to land in Montreal at 11:30 on Saturday night and will be in the lineup on Sunday. They had to pay to change their flights and will be fined by LaPolice for missing meetings.
“We’ll fine ’em and it’s dumb, but what are you going to do?” a clearly perturbed LaPolice said in the lobby of the team hotel. “Sometimes it’s like coaching junior high.”
Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce, a team leader, said he was focused more on the game than the foolish four who missed the flight. Pierce is coming off arguably the worst performance of his career, throwing five interceptions in the Banjo Bowl loss to Saskatchewan, and also has sore ribs.
There was no way he was going to miss this game, though.
“I feel good about what I can do against these guys, and I feel good about our game plan,” Pierce said. “It’s going to be a tough game. This is a good football team, and they’ve proved that for a few years now.
“Being a competitor, I get excited about this game. I did everything in my power to make sure I was a part of this football game.”
Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo is having another superb season despite the fits and starts his team has experienced, and he believes it’s critical for the two-time defending Grey Cup champs to assert themselves once again.
“We want to make sure that we continue to send a message to the teams, especially in our division, that it’s going to be very difficult to beat us here at home like it has been every single year,” Calvillo said.
“Once you have teams beating you, they’re going to continue to believe that they can do it. Where Winnipeg’s at right now, they are in first place in our division, and now it’s a chance for us to equal that record.”