Two good to be true


HAMILTON — From a 28-year drought to back-to-back champions.

And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers couldn’t have done it in a more dramatic fashion.

The Blue and Gold trailed 22-10 with less than four minutes left to play, and Hamilton, a town that hasn’t seen their beloved Tiger-Cats win the top prize in three-down football since 1999, was ready to party. It turns out the only party in Hamilton on Sunday night was the one in the Bombers’ locker room.

It took five quarters of football, and 10 points in the final three minutes to force overtime, but the Bombers somehow, someway found a way to prevail 33-25 over the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field in the 108th Grey Cup in front of 26,324 fans that were mostly dressed in black and yellow.

“We got the best coach in the CFL. He believed in us. We gave everything that we had. They went in at halftime thinking they had us and we came back and that’s what it’s about,” said wide receiver Rasheed Bailey.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrate their victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 108th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, December 12, 2021. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrate their victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 108th CFL Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, December 12, 2021. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

“The resiliency, everything about this team, everything that we do, it’s all about family. This is what we do. And all year we’ve been waiting for this moment, we deserved to be here and we finished it.”

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally climbed to the top of the CFL mountain in 2019 and that’s where they will remain for at least another year. It’s the first time the club has won two titles in a row since 1961-62. The 2010 Montreal Alouettes are the last team to repeat as champions. As a player and coach, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is now a perfect 6-0 in Grey Cup games.

“It’s different but just as special,” said linebacker Adam Bighill when asked to compare the two Grey Cup runs.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick (51) lifts up wide receiver Darvin Adams (1) after he scored a touchdown during overtime. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick (51) lifts up wide receiver Darvin Adams (1) after he scored a touchdown during overtime. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

“This one we were at the top of the food chain the whole way through. We were the team to be beat and we showed that we were the team that couldn’t be beat. We had to come to work every single day humble to earn that opportunity, to keep that top spot, because everyone was chasing us. Everyone had us circled on their calendar and it took a lot of work to stay humble and keep earning every single victory. That’s how we got it done and that’s why it was so special.”

The Ticats’ offence was flat at the beginning of the game with starting quarterback Dane Evans. He was 4-for-9 for 27 yards and an interception before leaving midway through the second quarter with a neck injury. He was replaced by Jeremiah Masoli, who was benched in favour of Evans in the second quarter in last week’s East Division final. Masoli got Hamilton back on track by completing 80 per cent of his passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. Masoli, who outduelled Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros for the majority of the game, had a chance to win it in the final seconds of regulation with a six-yard pass to receiver Jaelon Acklin, but Bombers defensive back Deatrick Nichols saved Winnipeg by getting his fingers on the ball. Hamilton had to settle for a field goal to extend the game to OT.

“Masoli was tremendous, man. He came in after what happened to him last week and he stepped in and made some plays. He opened up their offence a little bit more because he could run the ball more than Dane. It was tough,” said defensive back Nick Taylor.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Tanner Cadwallader (47) tackles Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Tunde Adeleke (2) during the first half. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Tanner Cadwallader (47) tackles Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Tunde Adeleke (2) during the first half. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

Collaros rewarded his defence’s efforts with an eight-play drive in overtime, capped off with a Darvin Adams touchdown catch. Masoli couldn’t respond, as his last pass was intercepted by linebacker Kyrie Wilson. Adams led the Bombers in receiving with 61 yards on five catches.

Collaros, the game’s Most Outstanding Player, threw a pair of interceptions in the third quarter but came up clutch when he was needed most. He finished 21-for-32 for 240 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s a dawg. He put it behind him,” Bailey said about his QB.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo (14) kicks a field goal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during second half. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo (14) kicks a field goal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during second half. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

“He never lost his faith. He never lost his trust in us and he believed and we got it done. That’s the type of team this is. That’s the type of quarterback we have, that’s the type of coach that we have, that’s the type of organization that we have. We’re finishers, baby.”

Winnipeg native Nic Demski scored a touchdown with less than 90 seconds left in the fourth en route to being named the Grey Cup’s Most Outstanding Canadian. Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo was also crucial in the victory, making all five of his field goal attempts.

“To have one of the top Canadians (Andrew Harris) in the past decade on my team, winning it and seeing him win it in 2019, it’s truly an honour to be named the top Canadian,” Demski said.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) is sacked by Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (94) and defensive lineman Steven Richardson (98) during the first half. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) is sacked by Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (94) and defensive lineman Steven Richardson (98) during the first half. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

“There’s so many great Canadians and I’m just happy that I could be one of them that showcased.”

The previous three teams to host the Grey Cup each won it. It took a special group to come into Hamilton and end that streak, especially in this fashion, but this Bombers team, one that had 21 starters and 45 players overall back from 2019, has cemented themselves as one of the best in CFL history. Fifteen division all-stars, three Most Outstanding player award winners, the coach of the year, the top-ranked defence and offence, and now, most important of all, a second Grey Cup ring.

“We love each other, man,” said Taylor.

“We’re gonna give it our all until the end. We want to see the next guy win and we want to see the whole team win so we’re gonna battle all the time. We really love each other.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) celebrates with kicker Marc Liegghio (13). (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) celebrates with kicker Marc Liegghio (13). (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

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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