Bombers turnaround satisfying
By Jim Bender, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers' head coach Paul LaPolice (L) accepts the Eastern Divisional trophy with Doug Brown after they defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their CFL Eastern final football game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)
A year ago at this time, Paul LaPolice was still licking wounds over the results of his rookie year as a head coach in the CFL.
His Winnipeg Blue Bombers finished dead last with a 4-14 record. This year, the Bombers finished first in the East with a 10-8 record and are heading to the Grey Cup game. So, LaPolice admitted to feeling some satisfaction over such a dramatic turnaround.
“Absolutely,” LaPolice said Monday. “The neat thing is on Wednesday or Thursday night when you’re preparing gameplans to sit back and go, ‘You know, there’s only two of us left. There’s only two coaches left going.’ It’s an honour for me to be going against Wally Buono, who’s one of the best.”
LaPolice deserves much of the credit for the turnaround and has the players’ support as they prepare to meet Buono’s B.C. Lions in Vancouver on Sunday.
“Even last year when we were losing, we had a great locker-room; we all got along together really well,” linebacker Marcellus Bowman said. “And we stayed together through all the bad parts. If you stay together through a season like 4-14, when things are going right, you’re definitely not going to separate.”
FOOTBALL FATE: Do you believe in fate? The one and only time the Bombers met B.C. in a Grey Cup was in Ottawa in 1988. The Lions were favoured but Winnipeg won 22-21 on Nov. 27. This year’s game will be played on Nov. 27, 2011, and the Leos are already favoured.
In 1988, Mike Riley was in his second year as Winnipeg’s head coach. LaPolice is in his second year as head coach here. Cal Murphy was in his second season as GM then. Joe Mack is in his second season as GM now.
The Bombers were led by a stifling defence in ‘88. They are led by a stifling defence now.
Check your ouija boards.
CUP MVP?: RB Chris Garrett fantasized about starring in the CFL championship even before the Bombers earned their way there.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but it is my dream to be MVP but that’s as far as I’m going to go with that one,” he said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done and our coaching staff will get us ready to play in the Grey Cup and be successful.”
HASHMARKS: Bombers CB Brandon Stewart, who was still on crutches, was heading to the doctor to get his ankle checked out Monday. But he is not expected to play. Deon Beasley replaced Stewart in the second half of the East Final and the Bombers also dress Johnny Sears as a backup/dime back … QB Buck Pierce, who was icing an ankle after Sunday’s match, said he felt “a little beat up but I’ll be fine” … The Bombers depart for Vancouver on Westjet on Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. Well-wishers are advised to get to the airport about 90 minutes earlier … The Bombers were 2-0 versus the Lions this year, but the Leos have yet to lose a game since returning to the re-built B.C. Place in September, and have won six straight there.