September 29, 2016 - 3:42 PM
WINNIPEG - Friends can usually tease each other before battling on the football field but that's not the case this week with Winnipeg cornerback Terrence Frederick and Edmonton receiver Derel Walker.
The two are buddies and train together in Texas in the off-season. But they'll clash Friday night when the Blue Bombers host the Eskimos in the rubber match of their three-game season series.
Frederick said he hasn't sent mocking messages to Walker this week, especially about Winnipeg's 30-23 victory over Edmonton on July 28. In that game, the rookie cornerback intercepted a pass intended for Walker, the CFL's top rookie last season.
"Naw, we don't talk about none of that stuff," Frederick said after Winnipeg's walkthrough Thursday. "We just want to perform at a high level each and every week."
That's pretty much what Walker and teammate Adarius Bowman have been doing this season. They're ranked 1-2 in CFL receiving yards with Bowman, a former Bomber, leading with 1,400 yards from 95 receptions and Walker next with 84 catches for 1,248 yards.
Winnipeg's defence is well aware of Edmonton's dynamic duo.
"We've just got to focus on corralling those two guys and take care of our opportunities," said linebacker Khalil Bass, whose team has a CFL-best plus-25 turnover ratio.
Winnipeg must also bounce back from last week's gut-wrenching 36-34 loss to Calgary that snapped its seven-game win streak. The Bombers (8-5) rallied from a 30-7 deficit to take a 34-33 lead with 20 seconds remaining, only to have Rene Parades connect from 52 yards out for the game-winning field goal.
And Edmonton is coming in on a high note. The Eskimos (6-7) halted a three-game losing skid with two late interceptions that preserved a 27-23 win over the B.C. Lions.
After playing four games in 19 days, Edmonton embarks on a stretch of four road games that starts in Winnipeg. In their last three meetings, the visiting team has been victorious, with the wins decided in the final three minutes.
Edmonton earned a 20-16 road win over Winnipeg on July 14 before the Bombers returned the favour July 28 to begin their win streak in Matt Nichols' first game as their new starter.
Nichols, who replaced recently traded starter Drew Willy with Winnipeg 1-4, will make his ninth consecutive start. And he'll again face the team that traded him to the Bombers last year.
Nichols is fired up to begin another win streak as Winnipeg tries to end a four-year playoff drought.
"For the last five or six weeks, it just seems like a must-win every week and it feels like playoff football," said Nichols, who has thrown for 2,214 yards with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions since becoming the starter. "I think last week, more so than the games past, it really felt like a playoff game and I think it's going to be like that from here on out because of where everyone is in the standings.
"I think nothing's going to be settled until the last week or two (of the regular season)."
Eskimos starter Mike Reilly, who's engineered three fourth-quarter winning drives this season, has registered 10 300-yard passing games in 2016, just four off the league record.
Bombers running back Timothy Flanders will replace injured veteran Andrew Harris for the third straight game. In his two outings, the five-foot-nine, 209-pound rookie has rushed for 197 yards on 50 carries.
John White returns as Edmonton's starting running back after Shakir Bell, who played the past two games, was injured in practice Wednesday.
Winnipeg's changes this week include Frederick in for Johnny Adams, who was traded to Hamilton Wednesday for negotiation-list import receiver Mekale McKay. Defensive end Justin Cole will start, while Brandon Tennant will back up the front four. Veteran linebacker Ian Wild also returns from injury.
Edmonton's roster this week includes backups Marcus Howard on the defensive line, linebacker Blair Smith and defensive back Josh Woodman.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016