Bombers pushing to put championship drought to bed

CALGARY — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are getting used to spending their time in Calgary down the stretch.

The Bombers had to go through McMahon Stadium and the Calgary Stampeders during the Western Semi-Final. They did just that, moving on and winning the Western Final in Regina.

On Tuesday, the team returned to Cowtown for the second time in three weeks, but this time, it’s the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on the docket.

“It’s about us. That’s definitely what we’ve been preaching for the last few years — going 1-0,” funning back Andrew Harris said after practice on Wednesday. “We’re going into hostile territory and shutting up 30,000 fans was a great feeling. It’s been a great ride.”

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Harris came back to the Bombers as a free agent in 2016. Since returning to his hometown, he’s been a dominant force out of the backfield.

“As my role evolved and I became a leader, I got more familiar with the whole organization and it’s just been amazing every step of the way,” Harris said of his time with the hometown Bombers. “It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the coaches and the players we’ve had and just how the city has embraced us and supported us. It’s funny because when we’re not doing good, they’re all over us. It just shows that they care.

“It’s definitely a great place to play and I’m definitely proud to be a Winnipegger.”

The Bombers had trouble stringing wins together down the stretch, ultimately finishing third in the West Division at the end of the year. However, their final game did show some promise, as Zach Collaros — who was acquired from Toronto ahead of the trade deadline — led the team to a win over the Stamps in Week 20. When the Western Semi-Finals rolled around, it was Collaros who was given the reigns. However, he wasn’t the only pivot that was excelling.

Chris Streveler rumbled for 82 yards and a touchdown while Collaros took care of business in the passing game, connecting with Darvin Adams on a 71-yard bomb that helped put the game on ice.

The win against Saskatchewan saw Collaros come up big once again, as he tossed for 267 yards and a touchdown while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. His longest completion of the game was to — guess who — Adams, who had a 63-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline in the first quarter.

“I’ve known Darvin since 2013 in Toronto, and he’s a competitive man. It seems like when the moment is bigger, he really ratchets it up and he really relishes it,” Collaros said of the Bombers’ top target. “I’m very confident in his abilities and I have been since I met him. He’s just a great guy to have out there.”

Winnipeg’s Western Final victory was also a massive one for Willie Jefferson. The Most Outstanding Defensive Player nominee joined the Bombers in the offseason after being with Saskatchewan for the previous three seasons. Although it’s always satisfying to get the best of a former team, the 28-year-old is looking towards this Sunday and the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

“That’s exactly what the meetings were for before we came out here. Just to flush out the game against Sask, get through the film, get the feeling of joy and stuff out of our system and then be able to lock in and be focused and be ready for this game,” Jefferson said.

The Bombers will need all of their stars to come with their best in order to come out on top in the championship game. They’ve proven they shouldn’t be taken lightly over the last month, but they face their toughest task yet against the league-best Ticats. Still, anything can happen, especially when you’ve got the game-breakers that Winnipeg possesses.