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O’Shea: Bombers ‘won’t look back with any regrets’

CALGARY — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are champions again, using a fantastic effort by all involved to come out with a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 10u7th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

It was a year full of redeeming moments for both a team and fanbase that had been waiting for a title for 29 long years. Following the game, head coach Mike O’Shea hadn’t quite taken in the fact that he coached his team to a championship, but he was just happy for his squad.

“I’ve said this a few times already but I’m really excited for our players, to play so well in the game that mattered most. They’re not going to look back with any regrets, they’re not going to look back on plays they didn’t make. They just really played really well so I’m excited for them.”

» For the Grey: Bombers end cup drought with win over Ticats
» Game Capsule: All scoring plays from the Grey Cup
» Harris named Most Valuable Player, Canadian
» Through the Lens: Images from the Grey Cup
» Leg injury sidelines Banks in second half
» Must Watch: Harris’ second TD extends lead

The Bombers flexed their collective muscles right out of the gates. In order to shut down the high-powered Ticats’ offence, the Bombers’ defence had to have a day, and they did that and then some. After a roughing the passer penalty, 2019 Most Outstanding defensive player Willie Jefferson swatted a ball out of the hands of Tabbies’ quarterback Dane Evans. The loose ball was recovered by Adam Bighill and returned inside Hamilton territory.

On the very next play, Andrew Harris punched the ball in for his first touchdown of the night. Later in the first half, Chris Streveler stayed out after a run play and floated a ball over the top of the secondary for Harris, who hauled a ball in to hit pay dirt for the second time in the half.

Harris would go on to become the first player to ever win both Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian. The hometown boy talked about bringing home a title to the long-waiting Bombers fans, and McMahon Stadium was flooded with fans of the Blue and Gold who wanted to see their team’s championship drought end first-hand.

“Our players really respect the fans and really appreciate what they do,” O’Shea said. “They’re at every home game and they travel well. It felt like a home game for us out there. There was a lot of support which absolutely helps.”

The fans may have helped fuel the defence the most, as they managed to get Hamilton to commit seven turnovers on the night — with three of those coming on their first four possessions of the ball game. Jefferson lived up to the award he won on Thursday, as he took Dane Evans down three times, had a pair of tackles and two forced fumbles. The Winnipeg defence as a whole finished with six sacks, three forced fumbles, seven pass knockdowns and two picks.

“As players, they were faced with a challenge — eight, nine, however many weeks ago it was — and that challenge was if you want to be champions, you have to put them on their backs and live that mantra that defence wins championships,” O’Shea said. “All three phases played well through the playoffs but the defence today, boy, did they shine.”

“I knew we had the guys; I knew we had the talent. It was just about whether they were going to become the team they needed to be and that’s a work in progress,” he said. “That’s the season, everybody’s season isn’t without adversity and it’s what you’re going to do with it. I had commented when we were 11-7 and going on the road that that was perfect.”

The Bombers walked into the playoffs with a long road ahead of them. They proceeded to go on the road, beat two tough opponents in Calgary and Saskatchewan before returning to McMahon Stadium to topple the top team in the CFL — a team, by the way, that Winnipeg went winless against in the two regular-season contests.

“Our Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans that travel and are scattered around the country, they should feel a tremendous amount of pride for their team, and they do,” O’Shea said. “I’m very happy for them, this is awesome but it’ll probably take a little while to sink in.”