Winnipeg Blue Bombers set to tangle with injury-riddled Stamps

Adam Bighill doesn’t think the scales are tipped heavily in Winnipeg’s favour because the Calgary Stampeders’ injured list is jam-packed.

The veteran Blue Bombers linebacker expects the Stampeders (1-2) will dip into their depth and battle when they visit IG Field Friday night to take on his 3-1 squad.

The Stampeders have 11 players on the six-game injured list and three on the one-game list. Nine of those players are on offence and five from defence.

“Their record so far and the games they’ve played, it shows that they’ve maybe had a little lack of continuity and consistencies,” Bighill said after Winnipeg’s Thursday walk-through. “But at the end of the day, these guys are good players. It’s a good program, they’re well-coached. They’re going to be coming out here ready to execute their game plan so we’re definitely not taking it lightly at all.”

Calgary’s running backs have been hit hard by injuries this season, with both all-star Ka’Deem Carey (foot) and Peyton Logan (hamstring) on the six-game injured list.

Dedrick Mills continues to carry the ball for the Stampeders. He leads the CFL in average rushing yards per game at 88 yards, just ahead of the 81.8 by Winnipeg’s Brady Oliveira.

Calgary lost receiver Malik Henry after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in a 29-26 overtime loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 24.

While there will be nine changes to Calgary’s roster from its last game, one is real good news.

Star receiver Reggie Begelton (ribs) was taken off the six-game list Sunday following the club’s bye week and will play his third game of the season. Wide receiver Marken Michel is also back in.

“He has a really good knack for running routes, timing and being in sync with the quarterback and reading defences, so he is the go-to guy that their offence needs to count on, no doubt,” Bighill said of Begelton.

Begelton had eight catches for 141 yards in his last game, a 26-15 win over the Ottawa Redblacks June 15.

“If I can play, and play to the best of my ability, then I’m going to play,” Begelton said after arriving in Winnipeg Thursday. “Throughout the year, everybody plays with injuries, so it’s all about if you’re able to tolerate your particular injury.”

And can he do that with his injury?

“Most definitely,” Begelton replied.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea can’t recall if his team has ever had almost a dozen players on the six-game injured list, but said every team goes through a bad spell and Calgary is known for its depth.

“And if they get Reggie back, he’s a sensational receiver,” O’Shea said. “Marken Michel is back. He understands what they’re trying to do so he’ll step in very quickly for them.”

Calgary head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson said he didn’t expect to get Begelton back so he was happy about that. As for all the injuries, he’ll just roll with it.

“We’re stretched a bit, but I’m not going to focus on that because it’s happened, it’s over,” he said. “The tough part is certain guys may be gone for the year. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But injuries cycle and, hopefully, we can grow and get more guys playing time.”

Dickenson described Calgary’s overtime loss to Saskatchewan as a “gut punch” but said they’ll use it to try to refocus and get some extra energy for the match against the Bombers.

Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier was intercepted in the end zone by Roughrider Nic Marshall to seal the victory.

Maier was heading into Friday’s game with a positive outlook.

“You’re going to be on the other side of those, too,” Maier said. “You play enough games, you’re going to be on the side where you win a game or you steal a game late or whatever that may be.”

While Winnipeg is coming off a 17-3 victory in Montreal, the team has a bit of pressure to play better at home than its last game – a 30-6 trouncing at the hands of the B.C. Lions on June 22.

“We haven’t talked about it much, but you always want to play well in front of the home crowd,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said. “It’s probably something that’s in the back of everybody’s mind. We expect it’s going to be a great crowd, against a great opponent, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Friday, IG FIELD
NOT FRIENDLY MANITOBA: The Stampeders have lost their last six games in Winnipeg. Calgary’s last win at IG Field was on July 7, 2017 (29-10).
LATE DECISIONS: Since 2014, the Bombers and Stampeders have played each other 20 times, with 16 of those games decided in the final three minutes. Calgary won 11 times.
ON A ROLL: Winnipeg placekicker Sergio Castillo tops the league in making all eight of his field-goal attempts this season. He has an active streak of 18 straight FGs going back to Sept. 16 last year.
BOUNCE BACK: Calgary quarterback Jake Maier has led the team to a victory after his last four losses.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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