Bombers shrug off forecast of potential nasty weather for Sunday’s West Final

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So, about this plan to play a football game, outdoors, on Dec. 5 in Winnipeg …

It likely surprises no one that the forecast calls for conditions that are less than favourable for football on Sunday.

Depending on which forecast you read it could be anywhere from a high of -10 C to -7 C on Sunday, with temperatures dropping in the late afternoon, plus a 60% chance of snow.

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL West Final, starting at 3 p.m. It is believed to be the first CFL game ever played in Winnipeg in December.

While the Bombers were practising in 6 C temperatures on Wednesday and -6 C and sunny skies on Thursday, it’s not easy to prepare for what may come on Sunday.

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As a result, the Bombers just go about putting together their game plan and will worry about the weather later.

“I don’t look at the weather at all,” receiver Kenny Lawler said. “I just go out there and see what it is. I hear it is gonna be snowy, or it might be. I’m not sure what it’s gonna be. I just know we’ve got football that day, so it’s a blessing.”

Bombers coach Mike O’Shea isn’t going to ignore the forecast — he has to have his team ready for anything on Sunday — but he’s also not going to let it change how he wants his team to play.

“I’ve been looking at it every day, just looking at winds and talking to the kickers,” O’Shea said after a closed practice at IG Field on Thursday.

“You’d like to find a day that has the exact same wind but the forecast changes so it’s hard to do that. It’s all over the map.”

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O’Shea doesn’t think Sunday’s conditions will affect much. Obviously, if there is a build-up of snow, it changes things, but players and coaches will simply have to adjust.

“I think the temperature is gonna be fine,” O’Shea said. “Wind always plays a factor in decisions you have to make, but temperature, the guys are warmed up and they deal with it, it’s all good.

“I think most of the Canadian players have played in snow and you talk to the other guys that have played in it, they have great memories of when they played in a snow game in high school or wherever. It’s always a great feeling. You get some guys that haven’t seen it or haven’t played in it but I think they appreciate it. It’s part of playing football in Canada.”

HARRIS ‘LIMITED’

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Running back Andrew Harris practised for the second straight day Thursday, though he was “limited” by the coaching staff.

Harris missed six weeks with a knee injury before returning to full practice on Wednesday.

It’s still unknown if the star tailback will play on Sunday, though the chances remain decent.

“We had to manage him a little bit more today,” O’Shea said.

“It always depends on the next day. How he feels, how he makes out through the night, how he shows up. That’s the way it always boils down … when a guy is day-to-day and limited, you just sort of check on him every single day and see if there’s any progress.”

It would certainly make a difference for the Bombers to have Harris back. While backups Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine have filled in admirably, Harris just brings certain qualities to the field that many running backs don’t have.

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“It means a lot because Andrew is a very experienced player,” Lawler said. “He knows the looks out there, he sees motion in the defence and their movements, pre-snap, so just like that, when the ball is snapped, he knows where to go, he knows who to pick up. He knows how to play the running back position and that experience helps us a lot. Definitely a confidence booster.”

CASTILLO CONFIDENT

Kicker Sergio Castillo is coming off his best game since joining the Bombers in early November.

Castillo went 4-for-5 in a season-ending 13-12 loss to the Calgary Stampeders, scoring all of the Bombers’ points. He hit from 50, 46, 45 and 15 yards and missed from 52.

All in all, the Bombers feel comfortable with their kicker for Sunday’s playoff game, which is important because he’s the fourth person to hold the job this season and the first three were more adept at fuelling a tire fire than making field goals.

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“I’ve been able to help the team out a bit,” Castillo said Thursday. “We weren’t able to punch in touchdowns on that day in Calgary but to be able to get long field goals that we needed, it was a confidence booster going into the playoffs.”

This will be Castillo’s first playoff game as a pro. He has played in both the CFL and NFL, off and on, since 2015.

“Man, I’m excited and I’m anxious in a good way,” Castillo said. “To finally be part of a team like this … I haven’t been a part of something like this since college where the locker room, there’s a bond there. I can see why this team is winning, because when you have that camaraderie, the results come.”

RECEIVERS CLICKING

The Bombers have the luxury of having a veteran group of receivers that has been intact for the majority of the season and that should help their offence click on Sunday.

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Quarterback Zach Collaros has many options. His favourite targets are Lawler (64 catches), Rasheed Bailey (52) and Nic Demski (48), but also has no problem throwing to Drew Wolitarsky (32) and Darvin Adams (26).

Wolitarsky believes this group has what it takes to get to the Grey Cup, largely because they so strongly believe in each other.

“We’re just friends,” Wolitarsky said. “You don’t always get to play with your friends. This is the first year I really felt like all the receivers on the whole squad are my friends.

“We hang out with each other, we talk smack with each other, it’s just awesome. It feels like a family out here and that’s a really special thing, especially in pro football, cause there’s so much player movement.”

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The starting receivers are five different types of players from five different backgrounds, but they’ve all found themselves in Winnipeg pulling in one direction.

“We’ve got all types of cats out there,” Lawler said. “We’ve got dudes that really love each other.

“In our receiver corps, we all want the ball. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want that competitiveness in my brother. We all know that we’re gonna make a play, we all know what we’re capable of and we hold ourselves to a high standard, which is definitely a boost for the whole offence.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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