Cobourne is enemy No. 1

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:41 AM ET

The Bomber defence believes it has the answer to victory in Sunday’s East Final.

Stop Avon Cobourne, stop the Tiger-Cats.

The Tabbies running back, who won Grey Cups with the Montreal Alouettes the last two seasons, has been Winnipeg’s focus in defensive meetings all week long. In last week’s East semifinal win over Montreal he had 14 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown, and another five catches for 48 yards.

“We saw last week he’s a playoff performer, but at the end of the day one guy’s not going to beat us,” Bombers middle linebacker Marcellus Bowman said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen, and I’m sure the rest of my comrades will too.

“We gotta be concerned about whatever he does, because he’s a hard runner and we know judging by the way it looks outside that he’s going to be utilized a lot this game. Actually, he might be enemy number one right now if you really think about it, as far as trying to stop their offence.”

Cobourne chuckled when told he will be the man the Bombers are out to stop.

“Good, because I have a quarterback that can throw it, I have a whole slot of five receivers who can catch it, and if they focus on me and my 4.6 (speed in the 40-yard dash), good luck for them,” Cobourne said.

Winnipeg defensive tackle Doug Brown believes it’s not just Cobourne’s skills with which the Bombers must contend.

“The thing that’s most worrisome about Avon Cobourne is his playoff experience,” Brown said. “He’s been able to win multiple championships. He knows the different gears that teams run on that are championship calibre.

“He understands that more than almost anyone on the field what it takes to get to the next level.”

Cobourne didn’t do much against the Bombers during the regular season, averaging 13 carries for 59 yards and three catches for 28 yards. So even though East Division rookie of the year Chris Williams averaged 128 receiving yards in two starts against Winnipeg this season, Cobourne and Marcus Thigpen are the centres of attention for even the defensive backs.

“We’re worried about those running backs, because you got Thigpen, who’s a bigger threat than (Williams) is, and you’ve got Cobourne, who can run the ball and is a seasoned veteran and knows what he’s doing,” halfback Jonathan Hefney said.

The Ticats were the CFL’s worst team along the ground this season, averaging just 90 yards per game.

But much of Thigpen’s damage has come on special teams. Last week, he led the Tiger-Cats with 273 all-purpose yards in the Eastern semifinal versus the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes in Montreal. He returned seven kickoffs for 171 yards against the Als and added another 29 on three punt returns.

“He is a kid who is very explosive,” Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said of Thigpen Saturday. “The thing he does maybe better than anyone this season is when there is a person who’s in a position to make a tackle on him — or two people — he makes them miss. You can have all the guys in the right spot, they can be in the right lanes, and if he makes them miss he’s going 40 yards.

“We have done a very good job in our cover units this year. We’ve got some very talented kids down there. They have to do it one more time. It’s hard, because he’s talented.”

Thigpen returned one kickoff and a missed field goal for touchdowns against Winnipeg last year, but the Bombers have limited his returns this season.

— with files from Jim Bender


Photos