HAMILTON, Ont. – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers wandered the wilderness for almost three decades before ending a long championship drought on a historic Sunday two years ago. And now their Grey Cups runneth over.è
The Bombers captured the 12th title in franchise history with a thrilling, dramatic, classic come-from-behind 33-25 overtime win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 108th Grey Cup Sunday night, the victory coming smack dab in enemy territory and in front of a Tim Hortons Field record crowd of 26,324 fans in the heart of Steeltown.
The win has its own historical significance, marking the first time the Bombers have won consecutive Grey Cups since 1961-62 and also becoming the first Canadian Football League team to go back-to-back since the 2009-10 Montreal Alouettes.
“C’mon down to Winnipeg, man!,” said defensive end Willie Jefferson. “We’re still here. We’re still doing it. Bigger, better, faster stronger. I mean, c’mon. That was a street fight out there from the beginning to the end. As a Grey Cup champion who has been fighting all year, you wouldn’t want it any other way. We like the fight. We like to keep swinging.”
On a day in which the wind howled, the Bombers rallied from a 22-10 deficit in the fourth quarter – with the wind – to take a 25-22 lead with 1:52 remaining after the fifth field goal by Sergio Castillo and an ensuing kickoff single. The Ticats, to their immense credit, then drove the length of the field with Michael Domagala kicking the game-tying field goal with four seconds remaining – one play after Deatrick Nichols made a critical knockdown on a Jeremiah Masoli-Jaelon Acklin pass attempt just inside the end zone.
In overtime the Bombers pounded the ball on four straight runs by Andrew Harris before Zach Collaros found Darvin Adams for a 13-yard touchdown and followed it with a two-point conversion to Rasheed Bailey.
“Honestly, they just gave me a chance to catch the ball,” said Adams. “I just ran and out and in and I was open. I like the ball, I like getting the ball, I like making plays. It just seems that sometimes when it comes down to it, Zach finds me. I’m thankful he has the trust in me to make plays.
“I just thank the offensive line because they did their thing to give Zach time to throw the ball and if it wasn’t for them, none of us would be able to show our ability. I’m so glad I play with guys who give me the opportunity to do what I do, to give Kenny (Lawler), Nic (Demski), Woli (Drew Wolitarsky, Rasheed, Zach… all of us and all of it goes back to the offensive line.”
Fittingly, the championship was sealed by the defence, as a Masoli pass was intercepted by Kyrie Wilson after it was first tipped by Nichols and then Rose.
“What a way to finish, man,” said Rose. “That’s football. Dream come true. We won back-to-back. You can’t ever take that from us. Ever. I don’t have the exact words to explain what makes this team special, but it’s a brotherhood here. A true brotherhood. I just love my team. I love Winnipeg.”
Collaros was named the game’s MVP, rallying after throwing two interceptions to finish the day 21-of-32 for 240 yards and the OT strike to Adams and a pivotal fourth-quarter TD to Nic Demski, who was named the Most Outstanding Canadian.
“Back-to-back for this organization, for the province… it’s just unbelievable,” said Collaros on stage during the celebration. “It’s about the team, man. Look at these guys with everybody’s family in the stands. It’s been an incredible year.
“I can’t say enough about how much everybody means to me. I’ve never been on a team like this. I love everybody on the team. We’re going to party tonight, baby. Let’s go.”
Demski’s win marked the second straight Grey Cup a Winnipegger – and a product of Oak Park High School – was named the top Canadian. That wasn’t lost on Demski, who was in tears afterward.
“I don’t know what it was, but when I just start talking about the people on this team, my brothers on this team, I just got emotional,” said Demski. “I just love playing with these guys so much and some of them I might not be able to play with again. So, to win a championship together… the emotions just came raining own on me.
“And to have another guy from Oak Park (win the Most Outstanding Canadian Award), there’s a lot of great athletes that come out of there and we’re just setting it up for the next generation.”
The Bombers struggled to find traction offensively, and gave up a late score by the Ticats just before intermission to fall behind 10-7. Hamilton had the wind in the third quarter and boosted their lead on a Brandon Banks TD and then after conceding a safety. The advantage grew to 22-10 before the Bombers offence and defence came alive, while Castillo kept crushing field goals. And after the first score in OT, the defence once again flexed with a championship on the line.
“We got a bunch of guys who love each other, who play for each other and never quit,” said linebacker Adam Bighill. “I hope this means everything for Winnipeg. When I was at The Forks and we celebrated in ’19 after the parade I said we were going to go back and do it again. Sure enough, we did. I hope everybody who bleeds Blue and Gold is proud because we put it on the line for you and we love you guys.”
“This team is resilient,” added Bailey. “This team is built by Coach O’Shea and run by the players. This is a great moment, not just for us but for the whole city of Winnipeg and for Manitoba. We are true, true fighters. We never gave up. Coach believed in us. We believed in each other, and it happened. It happened because it was supposed to happen. And it happened because we finished. Back-to-back. I love this feeling.”
THE BIG STAT: 23-3
The Bombers trailed 22-10 early in the fourth quarter, but then rallied to out-score Hamilton 23-3 the rest of the way, including OT.
Zach Collaros became the first QB to guide the Bombers to consecutive Grey Cup wins since Ken Ploen in 1961 and 1962. He is now an incredible 17-2 in games, including the playoffs, with the Bombers.
12: The Bombers now have 12 Grey Cup championships, coming in 1935, 1939, 1941, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1984, 1988, 1990, 2019 and 2021.
6-0: Mike O’Shea’s record as a player and a head coach in Grey Cups. He won as a player in 1996, 1997 and 2004 – all with Toronto — and as a coach in 2012 (Toronto special-teams coach) and now in 2019 and 2021 as the Bombers head coach.
7: The Bombers have won seven straight playoff games against Hamilton, their last loss coming in the 1989 East Final.
4: Sunday marked the fourth time in the Grey Cup’s 108 year history the game was decided in OT – the others 2016 (won by Ottawa over Calgary), 2005 (Edmonton over Montreal) and 1961 (Winnipeg over Hamilton on Kenny Ploen’s iconic TD run)
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