Blue Bomber Report Record: 5–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jovon finishes with a flourish

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Jovon Johnson has said it before and he said it again Saturday for the last time at Canad Inns Stadium.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers cornerback chewed up 139 yards on eight punt returns, one for 70 yards in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning touchdown, as the Bombers beat the Montreal Alouettes in Winnipeg's last game of the 2012 season.

After the Winnipeg High School Football League championships next week, Canad Inns Stadium is expected to be torn down. The new Investors Group Field at the University of Manitoba is expected to open for the 2013 CFL season.

"It just makes my day to get back there and try to make something happen," said Johnson, who was replaced for a stretch of the regular season on punt returns by Demond Washington.

With the Bombers trailing 11-8, Johnson's 70-yard return got the loudest roars of the game to that point from the announced crowd of 26,907.

"It meant the world to me (to get that return). Growing up as a player, I've always been a returner and always played corner. It's one of those things that if I'm not getting that much action at corner, it keeps me in the game to know that I'm going back to return," Johnson said.

"It just opens up the spectrum of what I can do. It shows our team cares and the players out there with me are giving all they can so I can do what I do. The fans were tremendous and they fed off of everything that happened on the field."

After fielding the 41-yard punt by Sean Whyte, Johnson charged outside and headed to the sideline where he pulled a spin move around would-be tackler Dahrran Diedrick and cut back toward the middle. He went down at Montreal's nine-yard line. Alouettes linebacker Kenny Ingram was credited with the tackle, but Johnson said he fell over his own feet.

Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman threw the challenge flag, as it looked like Johnson was close to being out-of-bounds at the sideline, but the return stood after review.

"I tripped myself," Johnson said, laughing. "I ran a long way. At the end of the play I was gassed. I was trying to do everything in my power to keep my feet but I got bit by a turf monster. Those things happen. The punt-return team did a tremendous job of opening up space for me to get in the open field."

Head coach Burke laughed when told Johnson had talked to the media about wanting both jobs.

"He's probably lobbying just a little bit and he's right. He's a pretty good punt returner," Burke said. "Definitely he has a great knack for returning punts and he is a good corner."

Another special teams highlight for the Bombers was placekicker Justin Palardy, who was good on three of four field-goal attempts. He tied his own mark for single-season accuracy, set in 2010, at 86.7 per cent.

He connected on his first, a 24-yard shot, which was his 14th straight. He was short on his next, recording a 43-yard single, but put his last two through the uprights from 41 and 38 yards.

"It's always nice to finish the year off strong. Records are records, but I'm happier that we won the game to finish off the season on the right note, moving into 2013 and the new stadium," Palardy said. "Finishing off the right way meant a lot. There's so much history in the stadium and letting the people leave with a win, it makes everyone feel a little better about themselves going into the off-season."

Palardy, good on 39-of-45 field-goal attempts this season, is the Bombers nominee for CFL special teams player of the year.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2012 B2

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