Jovon fin­ishes with a flour­ish

SundayXtra - - SPORTS - By Ash­ley Prest

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 John- son 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 open- ing 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 off­sea­son.”

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

TREVOR HA­GAN / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Bombers’ De­mond Wash­ing­ton cel­e­brates with Jovon John­son ( 2) af­ter his 70- yard punt re­turn in the third quar­ter that set up the game- win­ning TD.

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