There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the Blue Bombers losing in Regina on Labour Day.
OK fine, that last one might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much as the Blue and Gold have only beaten the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the September long weekend once in the past 15 years.
For whatever reason, leaving Riderville with a win at this time of year has felt like an impossible mission. The only time the Bombers have been able to do that in recent memory was 2016 when Justin Medlock kicked a 43-yarder with no time left on the clock to give Winnipeg the 28-25 win. But the Riders have rebounded to win the past three, including a 19-17 nailbiter in 2019. The Bombers were missing some key pieces in that contest as Andrew Harris was suspended and Chris Streveler replaced an injured Matt Nichols at quarterback.
The Riders own the Labour Day Classic all-time series with a 37-18 record.
But if you think the Bombers are dreading their trip to Canada’s Breadbasket because history isn’t on their side, think again. Some of them aren’t even aware of their organization’s struggles in the land of watermelon helmets. Or at least, so they claim.
“I would have no idea (unless) you told me the record,” said Bombers defensive tackle Jake Thomas, who will play in his ninth LDC on Sunday, after Friday’s closed practice.
“I don’t believe we’ve won too many, but I think the thing that’s made us so successful here over the last few years is every week we treat (the same). Every week we just try to go 1-0. If that’s a Labour Day game in Regina or a random Friday game in Toronto, we’re treating it the same.”Mike O’Shea has been on the sidelines for the Bombers since 2014 and has seen his fair share of LDC losses in his tenure. For O’Shea, what’s happened on this weekend in the past doesn’t mean diddly-squat.
“Until you tell me that it hasn’t been good, I wouldn’t know that necessarily,” O’Shea told reporters Thursday.
“I don’t get that sense. Probably because every year is a new year, a new team, a different opponent. Same jersey, but a different group of guys. Yeah, I don’t try to compound the issue by looking at historically what’s happened.”
Sure, the LDC has given people around these parts a fair share of bad memories, but it hasn’t been all bad at Mosaic Stadium for the Bombers. Winnipeg spoiled Saskatchewan’s first game in their new home in Week 1 of the 2017 season as the Bombers escaped with a thrilling 43-40 overtime win. Then, of course, there’s the last time these two teams met — the 2019 West Division final. The ‘Doink!’ heard round the Prairies — Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo’s pass on the final play of the game that bounced off the upright — gave the Bombers a 20-13 edge and punched their tickets to the Grey Cup.
“I’m sure that they do have a bad taste in their mouth from the last time we played them… I anticipate them having a little extra fire from that,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill.
“You just don’t forget playoff losses at home, especially when you were the first seed.”
Sunday’s tilt marks only the second time, 2019 being the other, that the Bombers (3-1) and the Riders (3-0) are the top two teams in the West Division standings at the LDC since 1954. But regardless of what the standings say, this one always means something — just ask Bombers offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick. He has seen both sides of the rivalry as he suited up for the Riders in 2015 when they beat the Bombers 37-19 on this weekend.
“The first year I was in Saskatchewan we were 0-9 going into this game and no one cared as long as we won Labour Day,” Hardrick said.
“That was our first win that year and it was like we had won the Grey Cup.”
Friday’s practice was closed to the media, but O’Shea confirmed freshly signed wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt was a participant.
Roosevelt, 33, was a standout for the Riders for five seasons but was cut by the Montreal Alouettes after this year’s training camp. O’Shea was asked if his newest receiver will play on Sunday against his former club.
“Bringing in a veteran player you believe they’re going to be able to learn the system, that’s why you bring them in, cause you know they can be available on a quick turnaround,” he said. “We’ll see what the roster holds in store.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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