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This article was published 15/6/2018 (1038 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Chandler Fenner, caught in the middle of the second-longest game in CFL history, chose to embrace the moment.
"It was a party, man," said the Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker, who registered four defensive tackles and two special teams tackles in his regular-season debut for the Blue Bombers on Thursday and into Friday. "I wasn’t trying to go anywhere — this was fun. This is what we do for a living and I love it. They can have us play all night — I’ll play all night."
In fact, the Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos almost played all night in a game interrupted by second-quarter lightning delays lasting 83 and 92 minutes, respectively.
The marathon match finally clocked in at five hours and 42 minutes and only the famed Fog Bowl, a Grey Cup title game played over two days between the Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1962, was longer.
The Blue Bombers, who dropped a heartbreaking 33-30 decision on an Edmonton field goal in the final minute, believed they handled the weather delays effectively, rebounding from a 17-7 first-quarter deficit to take the lead just before halftime.
"We just kinda hung out in (the locker room), guys put music on," explained veteran slotback Weston Dressler. "Each break, we talked about what was going on in the game a little bit. You kinda take a break from it because it’s difficult, you’re not sure when you’re going to be back out there...
"You’ve gotta refocus when you get back out there and you’ve gotta warm up again and get the body loose and jump into the middle of a game, which is difficult to do. I thought we handled it well."
Winnipeg’s Chris Streveler was the first rookie quarterback in 24 years to come directly from college to start in Week 1 of the CFL’s regular season. After a shaky opening, he rebounded to go 15-for-28 passing for 178 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also used his legs when he got into trouble, running the ball seven times for 30 yards.
"It definitely affected the flow of the night," Streveler said of the weather delays. "You’re going out there for seven minutes and you come back in. But, you know, both teams had to do it, so it’s not an excuse or anything like that. It’s part of the game. You play outside, weather’s gonna happen. I think we did a good job of relaxing when we were in here, but kicking it back in when we were ready to go back out. I don’t think that was too big of an issue for us."
Cornerback Kevin Fogg had one of his finest games as a pro, despite bobbling two early punt returns. His stunning 110-yard return of a missed field goal on the final play of the opening half gave the Blue Bombers their first lead. Then, a crucial fourth-quarter interception in the end zone denied another Edmonton scoring drive.
How did he relax during the breaks?
"Honestly, I just listened to my gospel music," said Fogg, who chipped in with five defensive tackles. "I guess I muffed two punts, so I was just trying to stay calm, just try to refocus."
Fenner, a former member of the B.C. Lions who signed as a free agent with Winnipeg in the off-season, said he spent time in the sauna during each of the lightning delays.
"The breaks weren’t really that difficult," Fenner said.
"It was a matter of staying focused. It was a matter of you come off, you have 45 minutes to an hour. You already know that. You get yourself back into your rhythm. Calm down, meditate, whatever you gotta do. Stretch your legs, 10 minutes left and then you’ve got music going and get back into your routine — get revved up and get ready to go on the field.
"That’s something we really did a really good job with as a team."
Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea wasn’t surprised by his squad’s moxie, considering many of them had played in four weather-delayed games in the previous two seasons.
"Our guys have done it before, they’ve shown they can come out and be ready, be physical and keep their energy up and their excitement level high amongst themselves," O’Shea said.
NOTEWORTHY: The Montreal Alouettes announced Thursday they have signed former Blue Bombers defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie to a one-year deal. Ekakitie, Winnipeg’s No. 1 overall choice in the 2017 CFL Draft, was released last week after spending last season and this spring’s training camp with the Blue Bombers.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.