The Winnipeg Blue Bombers traded for kicker Sergio Castillo on Tuesday morning in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2022 CFL Draft. He is expected to join the team after the club’s bye in Week 13.
“Sergio’s a very good kicker, we’ve had him here before,” head coach Mike O’Shea told the media on Tuesday. “I know he’s a fit and the last time he stepped on a CFL field he was kicking at 90-plus percent and made some fifties. It’s good to have and we’ll sort it out as we go along.”
The Blue Bombers have tried three different placekickers this season with less-than-stellar results. Tyler Crapigna, Marc Liegghio, and Ali Mourtada have combined to make 57.1 percent of their field goals, which puts Winnipeg well behind eighth-ranked Hamilton (70.4 percent) for last-place in the CFL.
Mourtada connected on four-of-five attempts this past week in a win over Edmonton but missed a 44-yard attempt late in a seven-point game. He is now 8-of-15 on the season (53.3 percent) after rocky outings in two of his first three games as a Blue Bomber.
The rookie hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the trade since he was told about it, choosing instead to focus on the things he can control.
“I don’t really spend much time thinking about that, that’s kinda out of my pay grade,” said Mourtada. “There’s guys that are part of this organization that are here to make those decisions and I’m here to kick a football. All my energy is focused on the process day-by-day.”
Mourtada plans to approach this week’s game against B.C. the same as he has in previous weeks. He was booed off the field the last time he played at IG Field in a tough outing against the Elks during which he missed three field goals and a convert.
“If you start worrying about what other people are doing or what’s being said — all that sort of stuff — that really takes your focus away. I’ve found a way of thinking where I just focus in on what I gotta do and execute that every single day,” he said.
“There’s only a certain amount of energy that you have, so if you spend too much time thinking about other things you can’t get at what you need to get done.”
When asked if Castillo would be the answer to Winnipeg’s kicking problems, O’Shea spoke in defence of his rookie kicker.
“I think we found the answer last game, too,” said O’Shea, referencing Mourtada’s 80 percent performance. “He straightened himself out and we’ve got different options now and we’ll make the best decisions as we go forward when those decisions need to be made.”
It’s clear that Castillo won’t simply be handed the job upon his arrival to Winnipeg, particularly if Mourtada has a good game this week. It sounds as though O’Shea communicated as much to the rookie kicker while reiterating that he expects the rookie to play well on Saturday.
“I let him know that this is the business side of this transaction and Ali’s going to go out and have a great game. That’s the expectation and his expectation of himself, too,” said the veteran head coach. “He can only control how he plays and I’m sure he’ll go out and have a great game.”
Castillo was excellent with B.C. in 2019, connecting on 41-of-45 field goal attempts (91.1 percent) with a long of 52 yards. His percentage was actually better than Justin Medlock’s (86 percent) last season, as is Castillo’s career field goal percentage of 87 percent (Medlock’s is 86.5 percent).