WINNIPEG - I don’t know that I’ve seen the Winnipeg Blue Bomber defence fly around the field quite like it was doing at the end of practice, Wednesday.
Swaggerville was breaking up passes, knocking balls out of receivers’ hands, even getting into the grill of quarterback Buck Pierce — so close that Pierce smashed his throwing hand on the helmet of Donnie Oramasionwu after one pass.
Head coach Paul LaPolice said it was as good a practice as he’s seen all year.
It bodes well for Sunday’s East Final when Swaggerville and Steeltown make their bids for a berth in the Grey Cup.
If we know anything about LaPolice, though, it’s that the last thing he’d do is make bold predictions about an upcoming playoff tilt.
Most of his players play follow-the-leader, adopting the same careful-what-you-say approach.
I say most.
Jovon Johnson is the one exception.
It might not qualify as trash talk, but the newly minted CFL all-star and East Division’s defensive-player-of-the-year nominee at the very least threw down the gauntlet for Sunday’s game.
And you can bet the Tiger-Cats will take notice, if not rip Johnson’s comments from the pages of their local Sun and slap them up on their locker-room wall.
“Nobody’s going to come here and score 50 points,” Johnson began, referencing the East semifinal, in which the Ticats rolled up 52 against Montreal. “That’s not gonna happen. It won’t be a Madden game on the field for us this week — it’s going to be a real football game.”
No, Johnson figures the Tabbies offence won’t even look half as good against the Bomber defence as it did against the Als.
“I’m thinking we keep it around 20,” Johnson said. “Our offence can score 21, and we win.”
That’s a pretty gutsy call, given the Hamilton offence averaged nearly 27 points a game this season.
But Johnson is nothing if not Blue and Bold.
He didn’t mince words when talking about the inconsistent play of Ticats quarterback Kevin Glenn, either.
The former Bomber has a propensity to eat up a defence one week, tuck his tail between his legs the next.
“He can light you up, or he can be his team’s worst nightmare,” is how Johnson put it. “It depends on which one you get.”
Other citizens of Swaggerville made even bolder predictions about stopping the Hamilton offence, but they were the kind you take with a grain of salt.
“We’re aiming for nothing,” was linebacker Marcellus Bowman’s goal for the Ticats point total. “If it was possible to give them negative-one, then we would do that. But we’re going to try to let ’em score no points.”
Ditto Jason Vega.
“We’d like to say zero,” the defensive end said.
But is that realistic?
“Probably not,” Vega admitted. “But it’s idealistic.”
Jonathan Hefney has the same near-impossible goal of a shutout. Or close to it.
“Hopefully we can pull what B.C. did to Montreal and hold them to one point,” the all-star defensive back said, referring to the Lions’ dominant performance in the regular-season finale.
Even the most confident citizens of Swaggerville must know that’s unlikely.
“They’re going to score points, that’s just the nature of the game,” Johnson said. “To say they’re not going to score points, that would be ridiculous.”
To say they’ll score no more than 20, that’s more realistic.
It’s also what makes Johnson’s proclamation the gutsiest of them all.
For our old friend, Mr. Glenn, the bar has been set.
Go ahead and see if you can hang 20 on this defence.
The best player on it dares you.