Mourtada gets another kick at job with Big Blue

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Mourtada gets another kick at job with Big Blue



Ali Mourtada was not the answer at kicker last year.

If he was, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers wouldn’t have sent a conditional fourth-round draft pick to the BC Lions a week before the trade deadline in exchange for all-star Sergio Castillo.

After drilling five field goals in the Grey Cup victory in Hamilton over the Tiger-Cats, Castillo left the Bombers to sign with the Edmonton Elks.

Despite Mourtada’s and Canadian kicker Marc Liegghio’s struggles a season ago, the Bombers still have faith in at least one of them being able to fill Castillo’s shoes. Mourtada is on the University of Manitoba field for this week’s rookie camp and if the CBA gets sorted out in time, Liegghio will be out there competing with him as early as Sunday for training camp.

Mourtada hit on just 8-of-15 field goal attempts in 2021 while Liegghio went 5-for-8 and missed three extra points.

“No, I’m not surprised (they brought me back). I’m confident in my abilities,” said the 31-year-old Mourtada, a product of Pace University, on Thursday.

“The opportunity is there so I’m just doing the work, man. I can’t control whether they wanted me back or not, but I’m happy they did. I’m happy I’m here and I’m going to do everything on my end to be solid for this team.”

In a chat with media last month, Bombers general manager Kyle Walters said he has talked at length with a lot of kickers in hopes of bringing in another leg for some competition. But as of now, no moves have been made, leaving Mourtada and Liegghio as the team’s only options.

“We’ll see what the roster needs. You know, right now, I’d like to see Legs (Liegghio) get in here and let’s see Ali and Legs split the uprights a bunch and see where that leaves us,” said O’Shea after the second day of rookie camp.

“But I’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys.”

Mourtada joined the Bombers midway through September last year after a stint in the Indoor Football League with the Massachusetts Pirates. Now with an opportunity to warm up with the Blue and Gold in preseason and with the CFL moving the hashmarks closer to centrefield, Mourtada feels more at home.

He hopes that leads to a chance to regain the confidence of everyone in Bomberland.

“Last year, I had COVID right before coming up here. So I was coming it and just figuring it out. I mean, there’s no excuses, right? You learn from it, but this year, I’m more comfortable with the guys around me, the coaching staff, just playing, and being around the facility and everything like that,” said Mourtada.

“I didn’t have that kind of learning process (in 2021)… so I kind of hit the ground running this year. I think comfortability is a big thing.”

BISONS PIVOT LEARNING FROM PROS

As a part of the CFL’s U Sports Canadian Quarterback Internship Program, Manitoba Bisons pivot Jackson Tachinski has joined the Bombers for training camp.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best. When you’re with a great organization, you learn a lot of things and you pick up a lot of things,” said Tachinski on Thursday.

“I’ve been picking everyone’s brain and soaking in all the information that I can and trying to get better every day.”

Tachinski was supposed to sit and learn this past season, but with fifth-year starting quarterback Des Catellier suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1, the first-year backup was thrust into the starting role. Tachinski, who graduated from Vince Massey Collegiate, ended up leading the Herd to the Hardy Cup championship game.

“It’s definitely been crazy. A lot of things haven’t gone the way that I expected to, but I’ve just been making the most of my opportunities and just trying to take advantage of everything that I get,” said Tachinski.

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Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

Credit: Mourtada gets another kick at job with Big Blue