Two weeks into the CFL All-Star Fan Vote, we can tell you one thing with great certainty: Winnipeg fans are rocking the vote.
Fans of the Blue and Gold have landed their players at the top spot in eight of the 10 categories thus far. Some — like quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Brady Oliveira — won’t come as a surprise, while others might. More than anything, the sheer volume of Blue Bomber players in the early vote count is staggering. With two more weeks left to vote, there’s plenty of time for Winnipeg fans to double down on their All-Star picks, or for fans from the other eight teams in the league to jump into the pool with their ballots filled out in triplicate.
If you haven’t yet, head to the CFL Game Zone and get your votes in for All-Stars and your Fan Favourite. Each contest has a $2,500 cash prize for one lucky voter. Voting is open through Oct. 31, until midnight ET.
Here’s the All-Star breakdown to this point, with the leading vote getters examined.
Quarterback: Zach Collaros
It’s no surprise that Collaros — the reigning two-time Most Outstanding Player — is at the top of the list at the QB spot. With 4,127 passing yards, he sits at second in the league in that category, with a game in hand on league leader Vernon Adams Jr. Collaros has thrown a league-leading 32 touchdowns and has the 12-5 Bombers on the verge of locking up their third consecutive first-place finish in the West Division. The competition is tight. Collaros has 28 per cent of the vote, but Adams is right behind him with 25.32 per cent and Toronto’s Chad Kelly has 19.60 per cent.
Wide Receiver: Dalton Schoen
Schoen surrendered the league lead in yards through the Bombers’ bye week, but could well end up topping his 1,441-yard showing from his rookie season last year. With 1,222 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns — which is tops amongst all receivers — Schoen is an easy choice for an All-Star nod, whether you bleed Blue and Gold or not. Worth noting: Schoen’s teammate, Nic Demski, is second in receiver voting at the moment.
Running Back: Brady Oliveira
Oliveira has put himself in a class of his own this season. The Winnipeg product’s 1,426 rushing yards give him a comfortable lead over Toronto’s AJ Ouellette (1,116 yards), with a game in hand on his 109th Grey Cup adversary. An obvious choice for an All-Star nod, Oliveira likely has more than just Bombers fans selecting him on their ballots.
Offensive Line: Stanley Bryant
Bryant and All-Star selections feel inseparable at this point. The league’s two-time reigning Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman and a four-time winner of the award in his career, Bryant’s is the first name that comes to mind for many when they have a ballot in front of them.
Defensive Line: Mathieu Betts
Our first non-Bomber is a deserving one. In Week 19, Betts added to his incredible season by tying the single-season record for sacks by a National player, at 17. In the Lions’ regular season finale on Friday, the third overall pick in the 2019 CFL Draft will look to break it. Betts has had a career year and like Oliveira, has done his part to make voting for Most Outstanding Canadian a very difficult task.
For the dejected Winnipeg faithful, know that Willie Jefferson currently sits second behind Betts in voting.
Linebacker: Adam Bighill
Back to the Bombers we go. Bighill — a three-time Most Outstanding Defensive Player and a six-time CFL All-Star — has 72 tackles this season, along with four quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss. He’s far off from the tackle lead, which Calgary’s Micah Awe holds at 113, but is an integral part of the Bombers’ defence and has made a career of making game-changing plays on big stages. Awe is on Bighill’s heels in the fan vote, sitting in second place.
Defensive back: Demerio Houston
The league leader in interceptions with seven, Houston has been slowed by a knee injury that kept him out of the Bombers’ Week 18 win over the Lions. He was a full participant in the team’s practice on Monday, though, which is an encouraging sign for him and his team as the playoffs loom. If we see less of Houston before the playoffs, Bomber fans have their top All-Star pick covered at DB. Brandon Alexander is second behind him in the fan vote.
Kicker: Sergio Castillo
At 40-45 on field goals (89 per cent) this season, Castillo is the third-most accurate kicker in the league through Week 19, behind BC’s Sean Whyte (49-52, 94.2 per cent) and Toronto’s Boris Bede (35-37, 94.6 per cent). Castillo is tied with Bede and Calgary’s Rene Paredes for the second-longest made field goal this year, at 53 and has made 48-53 conversion kicks. Castillo leads Bede by a slim margin in the fan vote right now.
Punter: Jamieson Sheahan
The rookie Australian punter may still be adjusting to life in Canada, but the Bombers’ fan base has his back, pushing him to the top of the punters’ list. The 26-year-old is seventh in punts (73), yardage (3,386), eighth in punt average (46.4 yards), longest punt (73 yards) and punt singles (two). Two more Australian punters, in Toronto’s John Haggerty and Calgary’s Cody Grace, are second and third, respectively, in punter voting.
Special teams: Mario Alford
As the second and final non-Bomber to lead in voting, Alford has made a strong case to be the fans’ top choice as a special teams selection. Alford is second in punt return yards (859), behind Toronto’s Javon Leake (1,078). Alford owns the longest punt return of the season, at 107 yards and has three trips to the end zone to his name this year. On kickoffs, Alford is third in yardage, at 1,122 and has an average of 23.4 yards. Alford holds a slim lead over Leake in the voting.
An interesting note in the special teams voting comes in the third-place finisher at the moment, with Hamilton’s Carthell Flowers-Lloyd. The league’s leader in special teams tackles, with 30 after Week 19, serves as the perfect reminder that the voting in special teams isn’t just limited to returners; it can go to those tasked with taking them down as well.