The ALSternative—2015 Pre-Season Game 1 Preview

quebecsignIn 24 hours, the drought will be over. After nearly two weeks of practice, drills and scrimmages it’s time for some honest to goodness game action for your Montreal Alouettes!

Tomorrow, the Alouettes will play their first pre-season game in Quebec City versus the Ottawa RedBlacks at Stade Telus on the grounds of the Universite de Laval. For the second year in a row, the RedBlacks were unable to host a pre-season game in the nation’s capital so this will be the “home game” for Ottawa. It is also their second match this week, having gone to Hamilton this past Monday and losing 37-10 to the Tiger-Cats.

It should be noted that Ottawa left a lot of their projected starters at home for the Hamilton game in order to evaluate the fresher faces. Tomorrow, expect to see a lot more of the actual starting lineup for the Rouge et Noir whereas Montreal head coach Tom Higgins has stated that, “anyone who is not on the injured list will be playing”. That said; don’t expect to see very much action from players like Jonathan Crompton, S.J. Green, Chip Cox or John Bowman. I’d say the jobs of those guys are pretty secure and it’s simply not worth risking further injury to this team.

The quarterbacking battle tomorrow will be an interesting one for the Alouettes. After Crompton, it was looking like Tanner Marsh would have locked up the #2 spot by the end of camp. But he went down this week with a severely sprained knee and is now on the 6 game injured list. So Crompton will likely start tomorrow then Brandon Bridge, Andrew Manley and Rakeem Cato will all get some serious playing time behind centre in Quebec City. Dan LeFevour, who spent the first week of camp on the sidelines ensuring that his surgically repaired ACL is ready to go, will dress for the game but is not likely to see action just yet.

I’m expecting both Cody Hoffman and Alex Charette to really make a name for themselves tomorrow. Hoffman has had a great camp thus far and has really clicked with the QBs while Charette had two incredible catches at the intra-squad game this past Sunday and hasn’t stopped since, even winning the praise of receivers coach Anthony Calvillo during a recent radio interview. With the off-season departure of Duron Carter to the NFL and the abrupt retirement of Brandon London last week, there’s a gaping hole right now that needs to be filled at receiver.

Both Hoffman and Charette can be that home-run deep threat for Montreal and a strong showing versus both Ottawa tomorrow and Toronto next Thursday can make a world of difference. Essentially, you’re talking the difference between lining up alongside Green, Fred Stamps and Samuel Giguere on June 25th and a spot on the practise roster.

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Some notable names to watch out for on defence are Brian Brikowski (whose style of play was compared this week to J.J. Watt; not bad company at all!), Dominique Ellis, Nick Shortill and surprisingly, Kyries Hebert. No one questions his heart and passion for this game but a rather unflattering article came out this week, suggesting that Father Time was knocking loudly on The Angry Bird’s door.

Based on what I had seen at training camp these past two weeks, Hebert doesn’t necessarily agree with that thought. He’s surely got a few miles on the odometer but he has also been a tremendous force all week, attacking each drill with reckless abandon and keeping his teammates’ heads on a swivel. If any of these youngsters want to take Hebert’s spot in the line-up, they are going to have to pry it out of his cold, dead hands.

And don’t start thinking that this game tomorrow will be a cakewalk for the Alouettes just because Ottawa has already played in a lopsided defeat earlier this week. As detailed here on 3 Down Nation, there is a concerning lack of depth in the RedBlacks roster but it’s also not like they were going to show you every single trick in their playbook upon first glance. After Saturday’s game, the coaching staff in Ottawa will have a much better idea of who will be staying to play in the nation’s capital and who will be given that dreaded plane ticket back home.

Montreal hasn’t won a single pre-season game since 2011. If they don’t win Saturday but some remarkable talent steps forward and truly shines, I’m perfectly content with that. It does bear repeating that the Grey Cup has never been awarded in the month of June.

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So now the stage is set for this first 2015 CFL game played in La Belle Province, even if it’s in a non-traditional market. When talks of CFL expansion pop up, the one place that always gets mentioned with the Maritimes is Quebec City. Could the people of Canada’s oldest city support a CFL franchise based solely on the outstanding attendance numbers that the Laval Rouge et Or turn in year after year?

So far, ticket sales to tomorrow’s game haven’t been the greatest. It’s also a bit difficult as this is really Ottawa’s pre-season home game and the onus has been on the RedBlacks themselves to really hype the game up and draw support deep in the heart of La Belle Province. Aside from a bit of promotion on both the RedBlacks and Alouettes’ web sites, there really hasn’t been much in the way of buzz generated for this game.

There were some complaints of high ticket prices and that may be affecting things, since paying $75-$90 for an exhibition game is rather steep. However, some great seats are still available in the $20-$30 range so hopefully the weather co-operates and the walk-up crowd helps to fill this normally raucous stadium for a fun Saturday evening of Canadian football.

I know a lot of RedBlacks fans are looking forward to this game and many will be making the trip from Ottawa to Quebec City (A near 6 hour trip by car, in case you were wondering!). Alouettes Nation will also be out in full force as well, many having made the trip in previous years to see the Universite de Laval’s Rouge et Or play. Current plans are for an Alouettes tailgate party to be held in the parking lot of Stade Telus starting at 1pm, so stop by and say hello if you’re going to the game! All football fans are welcome.

The Alouettes players will also be holding an impromptu meet and greet with fans Saturday at 4:30pm outside of the stadium. Speaking with Alouettes general manager Jim Popp this week, he wanted to let the Alouettes fans know that from day one the team had wanted to do something special for those attending the game in Quebec City, but didn’t want to step on the toes of the RedBlacks’ organization since this is technically their home game.

So if you’re coming to Quebec City tomorrow, bring your Sharpies and make sure your digital cameras are fully charged because your team wants to meet YOU, Alouettes Nation! If for whatever reason you are unable to attend live, this football game will be broadcast on RDS and on TSN 690. No word yet on if any web stream of the game will be made available but if that changes, I will inform you all.

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Be sure to check back in with 3 Down Nation next week as I recap the Alouettes’ first trip to Quebec City in over a decade. For last minute news and such, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Football is finally back, folks! Enjoy the game on Saturday night, regardless of where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!

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