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This article was published 13/11/2019 (264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Near the end of the first quarter of Sunday’s CFL West Division semifinal, the Calgary Stampeders had a 7-0 lead and were in scoring territory looking for more. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell took a shot to the end zone but underthrew his receiver. Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Mike Jones was in position to pick it off but couldn’t haul it in.
"I didn’t even feel my fingers touch the ball. That’s how cold it was," Jones said after Wednesday’s practice.
Luckily for Jones and the Bombers, he got a second chance on the very next play. Mitchell targeted wide receiver Josh Huff, who was covered by Jones. The two players fell down battling for the ball, but Jones was credited with an interception to give the Bombers the ball with less than 20 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
"The next one, I was in good position and I had my hands on it first and I just fought for it. That was all mine," Jones said.
You can’t blame Mitchell for going after Jones, a 24-year-old rookie who spent the majority of the season on the practice roster. He had to wait until the regular-season finale to get his first career start. But his inexperience didn’t show as he didn’t give up any big plays.
"I sensed it early in the game. But once you execute and handle your business, all that stuff gets put under the rug. I was ready," Jones said about Calgary trying to pick on him.
Fellow defensive backs Mercy Maston and Nick Taylor got in on the action in the second half with interceptions of their own. Mitchell, a two-time Grey Cup champ and a two-time Most Outstanding Player award winner, finished the game with 12 completions on 28 attempts for 116 passing yards, a touchdown and three picks. The Bombers capitalized on Mitchell’s dismal performance to come away with a 35-14 win to punch their ticket to Sunday’s West Division final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"I was actually shocked myself," Jones said of Mitchell’s performance. "When we were getting all those turnovers and it was just happening so fast and we’re getting off the field, I’m like, ‘Wow! This is a future Hall of Fame quarterback they keep talking about.’ I was looking for something amazing to happen but we held it down. I was proud of our defence."
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Justin Medlock is a 36-year-old nine-year CFL veteran who knows a thing or two about playing in big games.
While it seems the football world is filled with inconsistent field-goal kickers these days, the Bombers, on the other hand, can confidently send Medlock out and know the ball will likely go between the uprights, regardless of what’s at stake.
On a frozen field in Calgary on Sunday, Medlock made all four field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder, and was three-for-three on extra points.
But don’t expect to find Medlock patting himself on the back for a job well done. To him, it wasn’t good enough, as his punting wasn’t at the same level.
"I didn’t really think I played that great. I thought I kicked well, but punting-wise for me, it was a little disappointing for me in that sense," said Medlock, who had a 38.2 yard average on six punts. "I definitely want to pick it up a little bit there in this next game. Just got to bring it and one kick at a time."
Medlock may not praise himself, but head coach Mike O’Shea spoke highly of his kicker’s performance.
"He’s very prepared. Mentally, he’s been in this situation before," O’Shea said. "He’s kicked big kicks. I think it’s good for the team, too. They feel a real confidence with him."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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