It’s possible there are tougher gigs in sports out there right now, but it’s hard to imagine one that comes with as long odds as this: Justin Goltz will make just his third professional start for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 1-7, in the annual Labour Day Classic in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- who just so happen to be the best team in the Canadian Football League right now with a 7-1 mark.
Understandably, the Riders are 14½-point favourites.
"It’s another opportunity to step on the field," Goltz said. "I’m very grateful for it, grateful to have a job and be out here for a big game like the Labour Day Classic. There’s a lot of tradition and a great rivalries between two cities that have a great fan base. I expect it to be pretty rowdy.
"You can’t really think about it, we’ve got enough to digest as it is with a new offensive coordinator implementing a new offence. I’ve had plenty to think about during the week other than the fans, the atmosphere and stuff like that. That stuff will take care of itself as long as we take care of our stuff."
The Bombers, who have lost their last eight Labour Day Classic visits, will make two adjustments to their starting lineup, inserting new receiver Aaron Kelly for Doug Pierce and slotback Cory Watson for Rory Kohlert. Buck Pierce will be replaced on the roster by Jason Boltus and while Max Hall took a lot of reps with the offence on Friday, there is a concern he is not yet 100 per cent.
Asked to compare the Bombers-Roughriders rivalry to anything he might have experienced in high school or college, Goltz was blunt:
"I played at a D-III college (Occidental)," he said. "There’s nothing like this. There’s going to be 40,000-some people and I never saw that in college. Obviously I’ve been there in the past couple of years and taken part of it and witnessed it from the sidelines. It will be a little bit different on the field. They don’t feel bad for us and I expect them to come after us, both the fans and the team."
Bomber head coach Tim Burke said Goltz gets the nod over Hall this week because he’s seen most of the work at practice (Hall missed Wednesday’s workout with a sore throwing hand).
"That’s the main reason," he said. "Secondly, I don’t think Max is 100 per cent yet. I’m hoping by game time his hand will be 100 per cent so that if something were to happen he could go in and perform up to 100 per cent of his ability.
"(Goltz) has got to make sure he goes to the right side of the field with his reads and the other thing is to get his feet set and be ready to throw the ball. Because (the offence) is simpler for the quarterbacks, he knows right away where to go with the ball.
"Those two things… we’re hoping that translates well. But everybody on offence has got to help our offence out, regardless of who the quarterback is."