The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were acutely aware of the one weakness to their otherwise vaunted game that could derail them come playoff time.
So Tuesday morning the reigning Grey Cup Champions and runaway CFL leaders in 2021 made a move to resolve that situation by trading a conditional fourth round selection in the 2022 CFL draft for the rights to former league All Star Sergio Castillo.
The 9-1 Bombers lead the CFL in pretty much every category – except for field goal kicking – where the trio of Tyler Crapigna (3/5), Marc Liegghio (5/8) and Ali Mourtada (8/15) have combined for a league worst 16 for 28 (.571 success ratio).
It didn’t help matters any on Friday night in Edmonton when Liegghio was flagged for an illegal out-of-bounds punt after a two-and-out on Winnipeg’s opening drive. And again when Mourtada’s kickoff went out of bounds following an Andrew Harris touchdown early in the second quarter of the eventual 26-16 win over the Elks.
“Some of the penalties were troublesome. We score a touchdown and then we kick the ball out of bounds,” said Bombers Head Coach Mike O’Shea during his weekly radio show Monday Night on 680 CJOB. “We’re going to pin them deep, and we punt the ball out of bounds.”
So the timing of Castillo’s acquisition should probably not come as a surprise. The soon to be 31-year-old native of La Joya, TX opted out of the two-year deal he signed with B.C. in August of 2020 to allow himself to pursue National Football League opportunities, but the Lions retained Castillo’s CFL rights.
The Texas A&M product first arrived in the CFL in 2015, with Winnipeg following an unsuccessful tryout with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, who had signed him as a free agent the year before. In the final four games of that 20-15 campaign, Castillo was good on 10 of 13 Field Goal attempts and also had a 43.5 yard punting average.
The Blue Bombers signed Justin Medlock prior to the 2016 season, and Castillo moved on to play for Ottawa (2016/18), Hamilton (2017) and BC (2019). During that 20-19 season, the 5-11 and 196 pound kicker was named a CFL All Star ahead of Medlock after splitting the uprights on 41 of 45 field goal attempts, and 30 of 33 converts.
For his CFL career, Castillo has been good on 80 of 92 FGA’s (87.0%) while averaging 44.4 yards per punt. He is expected to join the Blue Bombers following the bye week for the November 6th regular season home finale versus Montreal.
Winnipeg can clinch it’s first CFL West Division title since 1972 with a win at home over the Lions on Saturday (6 p.m. CST) at IG Field. If their seven-game win streak was snapped by the Lions, the Blue Bombers could also nail down at least home field advantage for the West Semifinal by virtue of a Saskatchewan loss. Or a Calgary loss – provided Winnipeg’s margin of defeat versus BC was by less than 21 points.
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