The ALSternative

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and Alouettes Nation has a LOT to be thankful for!

After having nearly two weeks off, the Montreal Alouettes returned to action on Monday and delivered a sound thrashing of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning 40-9 in front of the biggest crowd that Percival Molson Stadium has seen this season.

While the Riders drew blood initially with the first touchdown of the game, Montreal cleared the cobwebs quickly and proceeded to completely dismantle their prairie-dwelling opponents. There’s no doubt about it now, Jonathan Crompton is here to stay as the quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes. Completing 12 of 25 passes and throwing for three touchdowns with ZERO interceptions, the man they call JC was on point in leading this team to victory!

Yesterday was special not only for the Thanksgiving holiday, but for the retirement of Anthony Calvillo’s #13. And you got the sense that the Alouettes did not want to let their former leader down by losing to a team that he’s had so much success against. Montreal had one goal for yesterday’s game: Win The Day. And with such a commanding performance, they did exactly that.

Defense wins championships and Montreal’s definitely has that kind of caliber. After allowing the sole Saskatchewan touchdown, the Alouettes’ D locked it down and the Riders never made it back into the end zone. Montreal’s defense caused a number of turnovers and gave both young Saskatchewan pivots all kinds of headaches. In fact, the only other points that came the Riders’ direction were by way of Sean Whyte’s conceding of a safety in the 3rd quarter.

The defense shone brightly and gave Crompton the chance to rack up some points with the help of his talented receivers. Once again, Duron Carter makes like his Hall of Fame dad and scored touchdowns all day long, notching two majors much to everyone’s delight. Brandon London also made a terrific catch to notch his first TD of the season, ensuring his Twitter mantra “14 in ’14″ is alive and well.

Combine that with a Tanner Marsh goal-line touchdown plus multiple Sean Whyte field goals and you have yourself the makings of a complete and utter thumping of the defending Grey Cup champions. This is the final game played against a Western opponent unless the Alouettes can get themselves to Vancouver for the 102nd Grey Cup. It’s all about facing the East now.

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With the victory, Montreal is now tied for first place alongside Toronto and Hamilton with equal records of 6-8. Whereas a Western crossover seemed like a foregone conclusion only a few weeks ago, if all three of these teams keep their pace while the last two Western teams falter down the stretch, you can pretty much forget about seeing the crossover.

The next four weeks of games played are all inter-divisional; no more East vs. West matches until the playoffs. So far both of Alberta’s CFL teams and the Riders have punched their ticket to the CFL’s second season; everyone else is going to have to keep winning in order to join them. Montreal’s first real test comes this Saturday as they head to Toronto to take on the resurgent Argonauts. They already have a victory versus Montreal this season and can take the season series with a win at home.

It will also be the Fan Train game, which is always a great time if you’re a fan of the Birds of Prey. For more information on this annual tradition, click here.

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Yesterday’s game was also very memorable for two things: The Alouettes retired the #13 of Anthony Calvillo and the Alouettes tailgate has grown by leaps and bounds to levels that were simply unimaginable. My thoughts on both:

When it comes to retiring someone’s number, every team has their own special touch. As well they should, as no two teams are alike and legends deserve to be recognized like no other. What the Montreal Alouettes did to honour the greatest quarterback to ever play for them was simply magnificent.

Those watching yesterday’s game got to see both 13 yard lines high-lighted with the Alouettes colours and a giant #13 painted in tribute to Anthony. As well, the players wore on their helmets a special decal with the #13 in Alouettes colours. There was also a t-shirt available for fans to purchase honouring AC and his day of glory.

During halftime, a video tribute featuring Anthony’s career highlights was played on the big screen. Former teammates like Mike Pringle, Bruno Heppell and Tracy Ham offered heartfelt words of praise for their QB. When the moment came for AC’s name to join the ranks of other legendary Alouettes, it was done with the fanfare that a man of his stature deserved.

From now on when you attend an Alouettes game, the name and number of Anthony Calvillo will always be on display. As I have said before, this was a truly great honour for a truly great man.

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Before kickoff, there was a spectacular event unfolding. What started a few short years ago with a small pop-up tent, a little gas grill and some die-hard fans that wanted to give Montreal more of a football experience has evolved into so much more. Yesterday, the guys from Les Gars Qui Vivent really out-did themselves. With yesterday being Thanksgiving, they committed to delivering a traditional holiday meal for all who attended!

In addition to the grilling up of hamburgers, hot dogs and the usual tailgate fare, a complete Thanksgiving meal with all the usual trimmings was made available for the fans, including several deep-fried turkeys! This may be commonplace for American readers who attend tailgates at NFL games, but for a city like Montreal that is always hockey first and doesn’t even have an actual parking lot at it’s professional football stadium, this was absolutely wonderful!

There’s only one more official tailgate left this season, so I encourage you to check it out during the next game. Should Montreal host a playoff game there will be one there too (but let’s take it one game at a time, folks!). Be it media, former and current players and several others who want to experience this unique opportunity first-hand, you never know who will swing by!!

The tailgate, the retirement ceremony done right and the Alouettes’ convincing victory made this one of the best football weekends of the year. That I am able to share that experience with both friends and family as well as you the readers makes me truly thankful indeed.

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With the help of numerous players (many who were possibly inspired by the example of Anthony Calvillo!), the Montreal Alouettes also kept their annual tradition of serving Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate of the city. The Mission Bon Accueil/Welcome Hall Mission got many helping hands as the players volunteered their time to serve up turkey dinner after the game this past Monday.

You can say what you will about the Alouettes and their place in the hearts of Montreal sports fans. But you can never question the Alouettes’ kindness and respect for their fellow man. I have no doubt that their presence and a hot homemade meal made someone’s dark day a little bit brighter.

This league is built upon the idea of community growth and this is one very positive example of how the teams of this league give back to the people of this country.

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This Saturday’s game will be the latest challenge and possibly the toughest test this reinvigorated Alouettes team will face. The last time these two teams met in August, Toronto walked all over Montreal despite Ricky Ray not having his top flight playmakers.

The Argos took advantage of an Alouettes team in disarray and will want a repeat performance, this time under the ‘Dome. Both teams have undergone a major turn-around and the winner will strengthen their odds of hosting a playoff game.

Once again, Jonathan Crompton is going to have to play the best game of his young career and the Alouettes defensive corps must make Ricky Ray’s day a long and miserable one. Both teams are riding a three game winning streak and one will come to a screeching halt this Saturday.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview the upcoming game. Overall, the Alouettes have a great record when playing the Fan Train game and they will do everything they can to make the train ride home a joyous one for the fans on board.

GO ALS GO!!!