November 7, 2022

Into The Winnipeg Hornets’ Nest We Go

They have been in the Canadian Football League Penthouse for the duration of this season and look every bit as determined to be the first team since Edmonton in the early 80s to win three straight Grey Cups. Simply put, it’s a hornets’ nest lying ahead. The path to Regina was always going to go through Winnipeg and now the Lions have earned the opportunity to knock them off the ledge in Sunday’s Western Final at IG Field.

Nathan Rourke and the Lions will fully embrace the underdog role, but won’t be satisfied after simply completing the first step to playing for Canadian Football’s ultimate prize.

Said Rourke to TSN’s Farhan Lalji immediately after taking down the Stamps:

“This is what we wanted. This is a chance to knock off the dynasty, really, in the CFL. It’s a great team. I have so much respect for their culture, for all their players. Their fans are going to be up in our face and it’s going to be a tough environment, but if we want to win a championship, we’ve got to go through them and what better way than to go through the two-time champs.”

The Bomber fans will indeed do their part to make the experience non-welcoming. It should be sold out. It will be rocking. The ‘BC Sucks’ chant, always a good-natured (we think) staple in Manitoba, should be out in full force from the opening kickoff. And then there is the team itself.

Led by likely CFL Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros, the Bombers finished 15-3 behind the strength of an elite offence that recently saw the return of receivers Greg Ellingson and Drew Wolitarsky. They have proven to run the ball extremely well with Brady Oliveria behind a stout offensive line.

“They’re a disciplined team. They don’t make many mistakes,” explained Mathieu Betts.

“Zach is the main focus for this team. It’s going to be important to do everything right, not overthink it and just be sound defensively. They’re a good football team. Stop the run, put them in a passing down and hopefully try to limit the damage there. As a defensive end obviously, try to squeeze those runs lanes as much as possible and try to put pressure as much as possible on the quarterback.”

You can bet the line of scrimmage will indeed be another huge focal point in the build-up to this contest. Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat will steer the ship on a defensive unit that has standouts at every position. Simply put, you could make a case that this Bombers team is better than the previous two installments that sipped from the Cup. As we know, come Sunday previous results do not matter one bit.

“I don’t feel like we have to do anything different, ” said Keon Hatcher.

“If we come out there focused, locked in with a great plan, and execute our plan, honestly I don’t feel like anyone can stop us. We just got to do what we have to do. That’s really what it’s all about. Most definitely focus on ourselves and Winnipeg is a great team. They have proved over the years that they’re a great team and a great organization. As I said, I feel if we focus on ourselves and go do what we need to do, I feel like everything will take care of itself.”

“A lot of respect for everyone there,” Rourke added.

“The group of players that they have, the culture that they have, the coaches and the organization; I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”

Into the hornets’ nest we go. It should be one heck of a football game.

Matt Baker: