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Kicker Sergio Castillo carrying Blue Bombers offence

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Kicker Sergio Castillo carrying Blue Bombers offence

Sergio Castillo won’t say he told you so, just check the numbers.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker has sparkled as of late, going a perfect 12-for-12 on field goal attempts and seven-for-seven on converts in the last four contests.

The eight-year veteran has been one of the club’s best players over the trying start to the season, called upon to produce in every situation and delivering every time. Castillo has even set some records along the way, including attempting and converting a career-best six field goals to lead the Bombers to a 25-16 triumph over the Ottawa Redblacks last week and setting a franchise record when he drilled a 60-yarder in the clutch against the Calgary Stampeders in Week 4.

“Ever since we went back to those footballs, I feel confident going back out for any field goal,” Castillo said following Tuesday’s practice at Princess Auto Stadium, where the Bombers will host the Calgary Stampeders on Friday (7:30 p.m.).


John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES
                                Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo went six-for-six on field goal attempts Friday against the Ottawa Redblacks.

John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo went six-for-six on field goal attempts Friday against the Ottawa Redblacks.

“My main focus is (going) one-for-one, trying to get these points for the team. Yeah, there was a little bit of (‘I told you so’) but more than anything, for me, it’s just like we’re gone, we’re done with that and let’s focus on these balls.”

The footballs Castillo reflected on were the centre of his controversial start to the season. Against the wishes of almost every kicker in the league, the Canadian Football League introduced new footballs that were embedded with computer chips that track statistical data for TV broadcasts as part of the league’s relationship with Genius Sports.

A cool addition in theory, but one that made the footballs’ flight path unpredictable after being kicked. Point in case, Castillo, who had a career efficiency rate of 86 per cent and hit the 90 per cent threshold last season, missed two field goals and one convert in the club’s season-opening loss to the Montreal Alouettes at home.

The perpetually optimistic kicker took to the media after the game to vent his frustrations.

“It’s very frustrating when you put in the work — and I have a little one, I have a wife back home that I have to provide for — and we’re not given the proper equipment to do well. Over camp, if I went 60 per cent that was a great day. And when we went with normal balls, 90-plus per cent. The whole camp,” Castillo said at the time, adding “I don’t know where to aim. Every time I’m out there, I’m literally praying the rosary.”

Castillo’s comments sparked discourse from every corner of the three-down world on social media.

Fans took to X (formerly known as Twitter), with many questioning the validity of Castillo’s comments and whether the chips — now removed from kicking balls — actually made any difference.

“Ever since we went back to those footballs, I feel confident going back out for any field goal.”–Blue Bombers kicker Sergio Castillo

Some of Castillo’s colleagues backed him, most notably Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker and VP of the CFL Players Association, Brett Lauther, who wrote a lengthy statement condemning the CFL for not listening to its players.

Castillo was fined $250 for his comments that violated the league’s Code of Conduct. Lauther, Redblacks kicker Lewis Ward and B.C.’s Sean Whyte were also fined for violating the CFL Social Media Policy in support of the Bombers kicker.

Any thought of the tough start possibly affecting Castillo has certainly been put to rest, especially after accounting for most of the Bombers’ points in the last two contests.

“Can’t say enough good things about Serge,” said special teams co-ordinator Mike Miller. “He’s a pro, he works hard at his craft, and yeah he goes six-for-six, he’s been hitting some deep ones too and helping us win games. He’s a true professional and a great teammate for sure.”

Castillo, who admitted he didn’t expect to be used so often, is on pace for a career-high in field goal attempts (54). Most of his work so far has come in the last two games, as he’s kicked 10 field goals. While it’s encouraging to see the kicking operation in rhythm, it has only been called upon for two extra-point attempts over that stretch.

While the lack of explosive plays on offence can be attributed to Zach Collaros going down with an injury, the offence knows consistently stalling in enemy territory is not the recipe for success.

“We’re aware of it, it’s something that we’re focusing on,” said offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce. “We got to get the ball in the end zone. One of the things that we’re constantly looking at is finishing drives and continuing to keep out of second-and-long situations, things that put us behind the sticks. Obviously, that’s a point of emphasis for us.