Redblacks a win away from first playoff berth since 1994

Brad Sinopoli Maurice Price

The Ottawa Redblacks have one mindset as they prepare for their game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – win and we’re in.

An Ottawa CFL team hasn’t qualified for the post-season since 1994, when the Rough Riders lost 26-16 to the Blue Bombers in the East semifinal. That could change Friday when the Redblacks (8-6) host Winnipeg (5-10), with a win clinching a playoff spot for Ottawa.

“You’re aware of where you are and what your goal is, but you’re trying to win every single game anyway,” said Redblacks receiver Brad Sinopoli. “All that stuff, however it falls is just the way it goes. At this point we’re just focused on winning.”

This is the first of back-to-back meetings between the two teams.

For the first time in nearly a month, the Redblacks will be the better rested team. The Bombers last played five days ago, while Ottawa has had nine days off after a stretch of three home games in 11 days.

“It felt different that’s for sure,” said Ottawa defensive back Antoine Pruneau. “After a couple days of practice it seemed like the game was still so far away, but the good thing is we got some rest and guys had a chance to heal some injuries.

“But trust me we are excited to play again.”

Redblacks coach Rick Campbell has kept his message simple this week.

“We know there’s great opportunities ahead and we want to make sure we seize those opportunities,” said Campbell. “The key to it is to focus on how to get it done which is lining up and playing good football for 60 minutes and the results come with that.”

Last week the Blue Bombers defence gave up over 300 yards and three touchdowns. The Redblacks also struggled defensively in its last outing giving up five touchdowns, including the game winner in the final minute of play as Toronto defeated Ottawa 38-35.

“We know we need to be better,” said Pruneau. “Winnipeg was dangerous on special teams last week and we’re going to need to be aware. If we stick to our assignments we’ll be fine.”

The Redblacks will be without running back Jeremiah Johnson, the CFL’s touchdown leader, who suffered a season-ending foot injury against Toronto last week, but the Redblacks have full confidence in backup William Powell.

Powell had only been on the active roster for three games, most of that as a kickoff returner, but after taking over from Johnson in the last game Powell had 105 yards from scrimmage and looked comfortable with the added responsibilities.

“We just want to play the best we can,” said Powell. “It’s just about knowing your assignments, knowing your job and not trying to do too much and do what you have to do. If everybody’s doing what they have to do then the job will get done.”

Players say they’re aware of what a win Friday will mean to the players and its fans.

“It’s absolutely huge,” Sinopoli said. “Any time you make the playoffs and give yourself a chance it’s something special. It’s not always easy to do so if that turns out to be the case (with a win) then it’s going to be something pretty special.”

Notes: RB Jeremiah Johnson, P Brett Maher, DE Marlon Smith, DT Ettore Lattanzio are all out for the Redblacks. KR Reggie Dunn, P Ronnie Pfeffer, LB Nick Rosamonda, DB Jeff Richards are all on the roster for Friday.

– CP