STREAMING CFL PPV: Ottawa REDBLACKS @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers, June 10, 8:30 p.m. ET (8:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m. CET on June 11)

Graphics: Igor Lazarevic

WINNIPEG — It’s been 180 days since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the Gray Cup for the second straight year.

On Friday, they begin their quest for a hat-trick when they host the Ottawa REDBLACKS at IG Field.

If they manage to accomplish the feat in 2022, it will be the first time a team has won three consecutive Gray Cups since Edmonton’s five-game winning streak from 1978-1982.

Most Outstanding Player of 2021 Zach Collaros returns under center for Winnipeg and also returning to Winnipeg is Most Outstanding Defensive Player of 2021 Adam Bighill.

If that’s not enough, last season’s top offensive lineman, Stanley Bryant, is also back for his seventh season in blue and gold.

Bighill, Bryant and Collaros were all set to become free agents before the start of the new season, but opted to sign extensions with the Bombers before hitting the open market.

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Despite losing running back Andrew Harris and wide receivers Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams to free agency this offseason, Collaros won’t be short of options when his team takes on the REDBLACKS on Friday night.

Greg Ellingson, who came from Edmonton, caught 47 passes for 687 yards a year ago. If he’s not open, look for Collaros to turn his attention to Rasheed Bailey, Nic Demski or rookie Dalton Schoen against an Ottawa team that allowed 3,812 yards through the air last season.

Points will be a bonus for the REDBLACKS against a Bombers defense that was the best in the league a year ago. The aforementioned Bighill, defensive tackle Casey Sayles and defensive backs Deatrick Nichols, Winston Rose and Nick Taylor will appear to be making life difficult for REDBLACKS quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

For Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, the goal of Week 1 is to ensure his team is prepared for the unpredictability that often accompanies early-season games.

“I think there’s always change in any professional sport,” O’Shea said in his post-practice news conference on Wednesday. “There is a quarterback change there. Teams don’t show everything they have. Some guys don’t play in pre-season. You must therefore rely on your preparation and your understanding of what you are supposed to do and your game plan.

Speaking of quarterback changes, Masoli is entering his first season in the nation’s capital after spending the previous eight with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Ottawa REDBLACKS @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers, June 10, 8:30 p.m. ET (8:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m. CET June 11)

Masoli is no stranger to the Bombers defense; he was held to 24 completions on 41 attempts for 242 yards, a touchdown and threw for two interceptions in a 19-6 Week 1 loss to Winnipeg last season.

It will also be his first time against the Bombers since the 108th Gray Cup, a game that saw Masoli throw for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the Ticats’ overtime loss.

A lot has changed in Ottawa since their last regular season game. Running back Devonte Williams will shoot the majority of runs Friday as starter William Powell is sidelined with an achilles injury. After an impressive preseason debut with the former REDBLACKS running back in Hamilton, Jackson Bennett is sure to see some shots as a returning No. 2 on the depth chart.

Bennett and Masoli aren’t the only former Tabbies looking to make an impact with their new team. In the air, Masoli will target former Ticat receiver Jaelon Acklin on Friday night. Acklin had 50 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns with Hamilton in 2021.

However, the REDBLACKS attack is not made up of all shades of black and gold. After signing with Ottawa in the offseason, former Blue Bombers receiver Darvin Adams will return to Winnipeg in Week 1.

Adams had an electric performance in last year’s Gray Cup, catching five passes for 61 yards, including the game-winning touchdown for the Bombers in overtime. Masoli will certainly look to Adams offensively to help lift the REDBLACKS over his old team.

Patrick Levels and Avery Williams will headline an aggressive Ottawa defensive front. The REDBLACKS will start the season without their off-season representative, Kwaku Boateng, after being injured during training camp.

It will definitely be a measuring stick game for the REDBLACKS against the defending champions. But it’s an opportunity head coach Paul LaPolice, Winnipeg’s former head coach and offensive coordinator, is relishing.

“I’m excited to go and play on a good football team,” LaPolice told the Ottawa Sun. “We had a few months to plan their game. Winnipeg is probably one of the loudest places you’ll go. “We have to make sure we can handle that. I have a lot of respect for all their coaches. And they have talented football players – offensively and defensively.

As the Winnipeg Blue Bombers prepare to win a third consecutive Gray Cup, their season kicks off against the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Friday. Kick-off is set for 8:30 p.m. HE at IG Field in Winnipeg.

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Watch the match live here PPV. Ottawa REDBLACKS @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers, June 10, 8:30 p.m. ET (8:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m. CET June 11)

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