WINNIPEG — The BC Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers have prepared themselves all year long to finish what they started in 2022.
The Leos want to avenge a 28-20 loss to the Bombers in last year’s Western Final while Winnipeg is looking for a chance to return to the Grey Cup and win their third title in four years.
The debate of the best in the west will finally be settled on Saturday when the Lions and Blue Bombers square off in the Western Final at IG Field.
How it got to this point should come as no surprise as both teams have been among the league’s elite all season long.
The Bombers have claimed the season series after winning in Week 18, but none of that matters with the biggest matchup of the season on tap.
Iin order to make it three of four and punch their ticket to the 110th Grey Cup, their offence needs to be playing to its capability.
They’ll rely on the experience of quarterback Zach Collaros to lead the way after a season in which he threw for 4,263 yards and led the league with 33 touchdowns.
The receiving corp is missing its top target in Dalton Schoen who’s out with an ankle injury and Nick Demski is a game-time decision, meaning Kenny Lawler and Drew Wolitarsky will be relied upon heavily to produce.
Defensive backs Garry Peters and Marcus Sayles both had an interception in the Lions Western Semi-Final win over Calgary and are tasked with shutting down the potent Bombers attack. The last time the two met back in Week 18, Collaros was able to throw for 389 yards, a performance the Lions can’t afford to let happen again.
For Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, if the options aren’t there in the air, he can turn to the league’s top rusher in Brady Oliveira.
The battle at the line of scrimmage is certainly one to watch as Oliveira and his 1,534 yards goes head-to-head with the likes of Mathieu Betts, Woody Baron and David Menard. The Lions are also set to get additional support up front as Sione Teuhema returns from a suspension.
Lions head coach Rick Campbell understands his team has their work cut out for them against the division champions but doesn’t want his players to forget what they’re capable of and the threat they pose when they play to their potential.
When it comes to the Lions offence, their success relies on the arm of Vernon Adams Jr. and the game breaking ability of a set of receivers that’s as deep as any.
Bombers defensive backs Brandon Alexander, Evan Holm and Demerio Houston are responsible for shutting down the likes of Keon Hatcher, Alexander Hollins, Jevon Cottoy and Dominique Rhymes. Hatcher carries momentum into the game after exploding for 195 yards and a touchdown a week ago.
Trying to gain yards on the ground will be a combination of Adams Jr. and Taquan Mizzell after they totalled 82 on 18 carries against the Stamps.
Keeping them to the inside is the responsibility of Jackson Jeffcoat and Willie Jefferson off the edge. Providing support down the middle will be Adam Bighill and his 74 tackles.
With the Bombers being 31-3 in their last 34 games at IG Field, O’Shea believes his players can use playing at home to their benefit throughout the game.
If Winnipeg can pull out a win, they’ll head to their fourth straight Grey Cup, while it would be BC’s first berth since they defeated the Blue Bombers in 2011. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. Canadians can catch the action on TSN/RDS. U.S. and International viewers can watch on CFL+.