GREY CUP GLORY: Bombers finally end 28-year championship drought with convincing win over Tiger-Cats

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CALGARY — There is simply no way a Hollywood scriptwriter could have come up with a better story than the one the Winnipeg Blue Bombers penned this season, finishing it with an ending full of twists and moments of glory.

After almost three decades of heartache, the Bombers and their fans finally had a chance to numb the pain and explode in blissful celebration Sunday night.

Led by man-possessed and hometown hero Andrew Harris, the Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in the 107th Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium, ending a 28-season championship drought.

Winnipegger Harris was named Grey Cup MVP and most outstanding Canadian while quarterback Zach Collaros won his fourth straight game since coming over in an October trade as the Bombers became champions for the first time since 1990.

“It’s indescribable,” Harris said during the mad aftermath of the win on the field.

“It’s a dream come true. To be able to accomplish this is a dream come true.”

Harris rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 35 yards and another major, then he rushed to share the win with the long-suffering, passionate football fans of Winnipeg.

“Thanks for riding with us, thanks for believing in us,” he said. “Thanks for all the support. I’m so proud to be a Winnipegger. I can’t wait to get back and share this with all them.”

Harris, suspended for two games earlier in the season after a positive PED test, was beyond brilliant and Collaros did something no one could have believed possible — win a Grey Cup after playing only one regular-season game with the Bombers.

“He’s fantastic, we’re so thankful that we got him,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said. “He’s such a competitive guy and he’s so smart and he fit in so well, so quickly. I don’t know if there are many guys that could do that. I look around the league and I just don’t know if it would happen.

“That story should be written and told over and over again for a lot of years, cause it’s a fantastic story. It really is.”

Collaros completed 17 passes for 170 yards and backup quarterback Chris Streveler completed three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown, ran for another 30 yards and caught a pass from receiver Darvin Adams.

“I can’t even sum it up, what a roller-coaster,” Streveler said. “Our team had so much growth together, I had so much growth as a player and a quarterback. Our team has so much love for each other and that’s a winning recipe.”

The Bombers used pretty much everyone in their quarterback room this season. Matt Nichols was knocked out for the season with a shoulder injury in August, Streveler started eight games and Collaros came in and performed almost perfectly in the playoffs.

Chomping on a stogie, soaked in champagne and beer, Nichols was celebrating just as much as if he had been able to play in the game.

“It’s an incredible feeling, I’m so frickin proud,” Nichols said. “I’m so proud of the things Chris has been able to do physically, the things Zach has been able to come in and do. It’s a friggin’ awesome QB room to be a part of. I love every one of those guys and we couldn’t have done this without each and every one of them.”

Winnipegger Nic Demski, who was not alive the previous time the Bombers won the Grey Cup, caught four passes for 45 yards and rushed once for 22 yards. He played a big role for the team this season and dreamed for his whole life that this day would one day come.

“It’s crazy, man, it’s nuts,” Demski said after hoisting the Grey Cup with confetti flying around the stage. “Just to be on a champion wearing Blue. And we’re able to bring this Cup back home after the drought … it feels great. I don’t even have words for it.”

The Bombers defence had a ridiculous game, holding Dane Evans and the Tiger-Cats offence to just 298 yards. They held Evans to just 203 passing yards and league most outstanding player Brandon Banks had six catches for 72 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury.

The Bombers forced seven — yes, you read that right — turnovers, three of them on downs, two on fumbles and had two interceptions, by Brandon Alexander and Mike Jones.

“Seven turnovers is unheard of in any game, let alone a championship game,” Collaros said. “From third-and-one stands to strip sacks, guys rallying to the ball. I don’t think we ever had a doubt they’d have an amazing game. And they did an amazing, amazing job.”

Harris scored the first touchdown of the game after Willie Jefferson strip-sacked Evans and Adam Bighill recovered at the Tiger-Cats’ 15-yard line. Harris needed just one running play to punch it in.

In the second quarter, Harris caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Streveler.

Justin Medlock did all the rest of the Bombers scoring, tying a Grey Cup record with six field goals and booting a single on a 47-yard miss.

“First and foremost, this is for the city,” Medlock said. “It’s an awesome feeling. This team is great and we’ve got a lot of grit.

“You dream of it. I actually was dreaming about it and I had to remind myself ‘Meddy, process, process, process, stick to the process.’ Now that it’s happened, I’m gonna enjoy it and I’m gonna have fun.”

Winnipeg became just the sixth team in CFL history to win the Grey Cup after finishing third place in its division and playing all of its playoff games on the road.

It was an incredible finish to a tumultuous season for the Bombers, who started out 5-0 and were 8-2 before they went into a tailspin after Labour Day.

They finished in third place in the West, but beat the Calgary Stampeders in the West semifinal, topped the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West final and then laid an absolute beating on the 15-3 Tiger-Cats on Sunday.

They did it with a quarterback who started the year in Saskatchewan, suffered a concussion in the first game, got traded to Toronto in July and then got dealt again to Winnipeg in October.

“It’s been a wild year,” Collaros said. “This is where you want to end up every year, as Grey Cup champions. However it took to get it, I’m happy it happened and it’s a lot of fun.”

Defensive end Willie Jefferson, the CFL’s most outstanding defensive player, had a spectacular game, getting three quarterback sacks, two tackles and two forced fumbles.

“That’s how you come out, stay focused, stay locked in and dominate the game in all three phases,” Jefferson said, holding his daughter as he came down from the trophy podium on the field.

“We’ve got heart, belief. We have players who were ready to give it their all and fight to the death. That’s all we needed.”

Offensive lineman Paddy Neufeld, a nine-year veteran of the CFL who won the Grey Cup for the first time couldn’t contain tears of joy.

“Finally,” Neufeld shouted with fans still screaming from the stands, families offering hugs and kisses to his teammates, all around. “Unbelievable feeling. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life. It’s been nine years and now I get to celebrate with the best team in Canada.

“I’m just so happy for my teammates, for this organization and for Bomber fans everywhere. The drought is over and we’re finally champions.”

The Bombers planned to party well into the night in Calgary on Sunday and return to Winnipeg on Monday. Next they’ll have a parade to plan, a long-time-coming party the city has thirsted for over the past three decades.

Harris and Demski and linebacker Thomas Miles, the Winnipeggers, will be celebrated for decades to come for their roles in making this finally happen.

Harris simply would not be denied in the biggest moment and he created an incredible memory for himself, his family, his team and his city.

And then there’s Collaros, whose performance is the stuff of legend.

Somehow, his season ended with a Grey Cup win when many thought it was over the minute he suffered that Game 1 concussion.

Nobody expected him to have as much impact as he did with the Bombers, but he’s sure glad he got the chance.

“These last four games and these last 4-5 weeks of football have been so incredibly fun,” Collaros said.

“I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun playing the game. It’s just been an amazing time.”

Bighill was visibly emotional before the game and was crying afterward. He moved his family to Winnipeg in the off-season and signed a three-year contract with the Bombers.

This is precisely what he had in mind when he did it.

“This is for you Winnipeg,” Bighill said. “I love you Manitoba, I love you Blue and Gold. I told you this was coming home. This is for you guys. “

We’ll give the final word to Jake Thomas, the longest serving Bombers player, who had never even been to a Grey Cup before in his eight years in the CFL.

“No offence to my wife, who is around here somewhere, but I think this is the best moment of my life,” Thomas said.

“It was worth the eight-year wait.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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