December 2, 2022

Emotional Couture has a father in his heart… kicker credits Mexican food and the Bible for the link… a hole in the Ticat defense… no appearance for “Knuckles”


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HAMILTON – There might not be a more emotional player on the pitch on Sunday than Blue Bombers center Michael Couture.

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Couture has two reasons to be overwhelmed by feelings he has never felt before when the Bombers come out of the tunnel for Game 108 of the Gray Cup.

For starters, this will be the 27-year-old’s first taste of the CFL’s ultimate game – Couture tore his ankle in the last game of the 2019 regular season and missed the entire playoff run.

“This fire has never been extinguished,” the Burnaby, BC product said Friday. “Especially after we won in 19, and then we went through what was 2020. It gave me a good opportunity to readjust really well, and it means everything to be here.”

A minute later, Couture was asked about the bracelet he was wearing, and that’s when things got complicated.

Couture lost his father to cancer last year, a devastating blow he didn’t want to discuss with reporters at the time.

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On Friday, he raised his right arm to show off the jewel he wears in memory of his father, one of his father’s two bracelets.

“I have it almost every day,” Couture said. “I wouldn’t be here, playing football at this level, without my father. And for both of my parents, really.

Couture was at the 2019 Championship game in Calgary, as was his father.

Even though he didn’t play, that day produced an indelible moment.

It came after the game, in the locker room.

Couture has a video of head coach Mike O’Shea speaking to the team, and it shows his dad next to the coach, smiling from ear to ear and soaking up everything.

“It’s ingrained,” Couture said.

On Sunday, his mother, his girlfriend and a few other family members will be in the stands.

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Her father will be in her heart.

“He’s here,” Couture said. “He’s with me for sure. “

SOAK IT IN

Kicker Sergio Castillo, with the Bombers for barely a month, will only play his fifth game since signing as the fourth player to attempt field goals this season.

Last week was Castillo’s first playoff game and it will be his first Gray Cup.

“This is what I was hoping for,” Castillo said. “I try to soak up everything. This will never happen again, a first time. Being able to live in the moment, in the present, has been a gift to me lately.

If and when Castillo gets nervous, he’ll come up with a short list of inspirational quotes and Bible verses that he’ll keep on his hip.

“So whenever I feel an ounce of doubt, sometimes it can be once in a quarter, or it can be 10 times, I take that list out,” he said. “As soon as I feel something, I take it out.”

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And the result?

“A calm. The one who says he can and the one who says he can’t are usually both right. The mind nourishes the body.

Speaking of food, Castillo says he’s tried to speed up the bonding process with his teammates by sharing a bit of his culture.

“People will never refuse food,” he said. “Especially Mexican food. I’ll make tacos, try to bring my culture to the guys.

Joining the Bible study group, Castillo says, also brought him closer to his teammates.

“People say we play for our brothers, and that’s always cliché,” he said. “But this is the first time in my professional career that there are 16 or 17 guys in Bible study. The last time I experienced this was in college, and we won a lot of games. I can see why they are winning here.

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GEAR CHANGER

League-leading Hamilton’s run defense has received a heavy blow with news that inside lineman Ted Laurent is likely to miss the game after suffering from appendicitis.

A 10-year-old veteran and Canadian, Laurent led a run defense that allowed just 79.6 yards per game.

Everyone knows how much Winnipeg’s offense relies on ground play, the most recent example of the West Final, when the Bombers ran 34 times for just 21 assists.
Andrew Harris carried the ball on 23 of those plays, producing 136 yards.

The Tiger-Cats would replace Laurent with American Lee Autry II, meaning they would have to remove an American starter from the roster elsewhere to stay with the ratio.

It could happen in the secondary or running back, where Don Jackson might have to step aside in favor of Sean Thomas-Erlington.

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THANKS BUT NO THANKS

By now, you’ve probably heard the Bombers’ house radio, 680-CJOB, broadcast the game, broadcasting the TSN radio feed.

What you might not have heard is that retired Bob Irving was offered a chance to call a few minutes of the game at the end of the first half.

“Knuckles” politely declined and will watch the game from his hotel, while preparing for his post-game show.

THE LAST WORD

“A lot of people tell us, ‘You haven’t faced adversity.’ Well, we just finished a year without playing football. That’s enough adversity for everyone. – Bomber Catcher Rasheed Bailey

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