The Winnipeg Blue Bombers looked lost in the deep, dark woods but Adam Bighill was confident they would find their way back to sunlight.
“No tree too big,” said the Winnipeg linebacker as confetti swirled around him Sunday night. “Chop wood one play at a time. That’s how you get it done.”
The Bombers trailed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 22-10 with just under 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter of the 108th Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field. They rallied for a thrilling 33-25 overtime victory before a stadium record crowd of 26,324 to win their first back-to-back CFL titles since the 1961 and 1962 seasons.
Slotback Nic Demski said the team never lost faith.
“We all believe in each other,” said the Winnipeg native who was named the game’s Most Valuable Canadian after making four catches for 27 yards and a touchdown. “We know what we’re capable of.
“We know the end goal and we know how to get the result. We grind.”
Being named the game’s top Canadian “means a lot” but also was ironic for Demski.
“This year I said throw the individual goals out the window and focus on just winning the Grey Cup,” he said. “It just goes to show when you set your mind to the bigger picture, good things will happen.”
» Nic Demski named 108th Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian
» Zach Collaros named 108th Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player
» Twice as Nice: Bombers win back-to-back Grey Cups
» Bombers open scoring in overtime with two-point conversion
The game had shades of Winnipeg’s 21-17 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Final. The Bombers trailed the Riders 10-7 at half-time and committed six turnovers, including quarterback Zach Collaros throwing three interceptions.
Receiver Darvin Adams said the come-back win against the Riders helped pave the road to victory over Hamilton.
“We do this all the time,” said Adams, who had five catches for 61 yards and caught the winning touchdown in overtime. “All of us stayed together and we just waited on our moment to strike, and we did.
“Last week taught us a lesson. This week we came out and we just did what we were supposed to.”
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said the Bombers were in a hole but never felt buried.
“We never really felt like we were down, down,” he said. “We just had a couple of miscues that we knew we could handle. We always knew we were in the game.
“This defence loves challenges. We love if our backs are against the wall because we want to show how great we are. We wanted to show everybody that was watching that we were the best and we deserve to be champions.”
Collaros, who was named the league’s Most Outstanding Players for leading Winnipeg to a 11-3 record-season record, had a rough start to the game. He was picked off twice by Hamilton’s Kameron Kelly and the offence struggled to find traction.
He turned things around in the second half and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player after completing 21 of 32 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Buck Pierce, Winnipeg’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said Collaros didn’t wilt under the heat.
“He’s as cool as anybody back there,” said Pierce. “He’s got a killer mindset.
“We don’t worry about mistakes (because) they are part of the game. You can’t be shy. We’re going to fire all the bullets we’ve got.”
It was Bighill’s third time sipping champagne out of the Grey Cup after being part of the BC Lions’ 2011 championship team.
“It’s different, special,” said Bighill, who was the CFL’s top defensive player this year. “Every journey is different. This one we were at the top of the food chain the whole way. We were the team to beat. We showed we were the team that couldn’t be beat.
“Everyone had us circled on their calendar. It took a lot of work to stay humble and keep earning every single victory. That’s why it’s so special.”
Willie Jefferson stood on the field, his infant daughter in his arms, and a baseball cap on his head.
For him, winning a second-conservative title was like a chocolate sundae. Staging a nail-biting comeback on the Ticats home turf was the cherry on top.
“It was tense but no doubt at all,” he shouted.
“It feels a lot different in enemy territory, behind enemy lines. Fans on your back, the city against you and everything. We had to come out here, show these guys that we are hard to play. If it had to go into overtime, that’s the kind of ball we were ready to play.”
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