Bombers' biggest game Saturday

Blue Bombers kicker Jamie Boreham during practice at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 19,...

Blue Bombers kicker Jamie Boreham during practice at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 19, 2011.

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:49 AM ET

WINNIPEG - He’s played 57 games as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber, the same number he carries on the jersey covering the upper portion of his 300-pound frame.

One of them was even a win-or-you-go-home playoff encounter.

But the man with the perfect last name for a hog, particularly one slugging it out for the Big Blue, says there’s never been one with more at stake than this Saturday’s.

“This one’s probably the biggest game I’ve played,” four-year lineman Brendon LaBatte was saying, Wednesday. “I’ve only played in one playoff game, in ’08, and that was a huge game for us. But to have a shot to get first place, that’s definitely the biggest game.”

That’s an eye-opening statement from the relatively soft-spoken giant from Weyburn, Sask., and underlines the notion that anything short of a No. 1 finish in the CFL East will be mission unaccomplished for the 9-6 Bombers.

Sure, they’ve bounced back admirably from 4-14, the team brass proving it knew what it was doing in sticking with the status quo, blah-de-blah-blah-blah.

We’ve also heard the argument that since the Bombers were so bad last year, nine or 10 wins would be a remarkable turnaround.

As Dave Ritchie used to say, that’s hosscrap.

Since this team won seven of its first eight, first place had to be the default position, second a disappointment and third akin to throwing up all over oneself.

With three games to go, we still don’t know if we should buy champagne or a roll of paper towel, thanks to a current 2-5 slide.

But a win, here, Saturday, in front of another full house against the Alouettes, would quiet the queasy stomachs and leave one blue-and-gold hand gripping first place.

A loss, and in the immortal words of Donnie Brasco, you can fuhgeddaboudit.

Figuring the results might tell us something about this team’s mindset going into such a critical game, your humble agent waded into Bomber practice, Wednesday, armed with just one question.

Given last year’s record, and this season’s start, would a second-place finish represent a great success, or a major disappointment?

Terrence Edwards, you’re up first.

“We’ve still got an opportunity to accomplish our goal,” the seven-year CFL receiver said. “That’s to win a Grey Cup. So it’s not a disappointment. We haven’t been in the playoffs for two years. So it’s a good thing.”

Yes, compared to the low bar set by this team’s recent past, hosting a semifinal would be wonderful.

It also got Doug Berry fired.

“We did raise the bar with our play in the first half,” D-lineman Doug Brown began. “So our expectations are to be better than that right now. In some sense, we would be falling short on what we think we’re capable of.”

Backing up Brown was quarterback Buck Pierce.

“Within our locker-room, we see it as a bit of a disappointment,” No. 4 said of the prospect of being No. 2. “Because we know how good we are. We know how good we can be.”

There were those who waffled, just a tad, most notably, and to nobody’s surprise, the head coach.

“A success for this club would be a great thing to be in second or first place,” Paul LaPolice said.

One thing Coach LaPo had to acknowledge: there’s been no more important a game in his tenure at the Bombers’ helm.

In the end, I have to side with LaBatte — and not just because he’s 300 pounds and can probably get free beer.

“To start off 7-1, to even control your own destiny with three games to go, you gotta be thinking, ‘We’re goin’ for gold,’ ” LaBatte said. “If the gold medal is not claimed and you’re lookin’ for silver already, that’s a bit of a problem.”

Leave it to a hog to wade through the bull.

WHAT'S ON THE LINE?

At Stake:

— If Bombers beat Montreal: they’re in first place with two games to go.

— If Bombers lose to Montreal: Alouettes clinch first.

Disturbing Trend:

— Bomber Record, First Half of Season: 7-2

— Bomber Record, Second Half: 2-4

Mediocre Past:

— Last time Bombers finished first: 2001

— Last time Bombers hosted playoff game: 2008

— Last time Bombers won playoff game: 2007


Videos

Photos