“YOU SOLD OUT!”
There are normally negative connotations to those three words. It often implies that someone has compromised their principles or beliefs, usually in exchange for monetary benefits.
But in the case of the Montreal Alouettes, it means that this Sunday’s game versus the Toronto Argonauts will be the most attended game at Percival Molson Stadium in a long, long time. It also has the potential to be the noisiest game played there in a long time. Which is great, because this 3-9 Alouettes team will need all the support it can get.
Incredibly, the Alouettes are still mathematically alive in the Grey Cup playoff race. But they will need a lot of help in order to reach the promised land. Wins are absolutely crucial, especially as two of their six remaining games are being played against divisional opponents.
Toronto is also looking to right their own ship as it clings to third place in the CFL’s Eastern division. Recently acquired Argos pivot Drew Willy will be given the start on Sunday and will face an Alouettes team that has already bested him earlier this season when he was a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
But this is not the same team he faced this past June. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new sheriff patrolling the sidelines in La Belle Province. And he’s not taking any prisoners.
Newly-appointed head coach Jacques Chapdelaine will make his CFL head coaching debut this Sunday. This was seen as a bold move by many that has drawn a considerable amount of local interest, as this is the first time in this team’s history that the head coach is of French-Canadian descent.
Many have also seen this as a desperate move by a team that sorely needs a leader. But Jim Popp simply could not continue to run this team on the field. Anthony Calvillo is simply nowhere close to being ready to be this team’s head coach either and both Noel Thorpe and Kavis Reed were not considered as short-term solutions. So the job fell to Chapdelaine and not only will he lead this team, but he will take this insipid offense and attempt to restore it back to working condition.
Chapdelaine’s first move as head coach was to take the play-calling duties out of Calvillo’s hands and relegate him to a spotter in the booth. Calvillo is reportedly not happy with the move, but it’s clear as day that he was overmatched every game day and likely overwhelmed with the task of preparing this team’s offensive attack. Perhaps now AC can get some new perspective from being up in the booth to see the game properly and his coaching career can be salvaged.
There are many who will surmise that the appointment of Chapdelaine was strictly a PR move, hoping that the appointment of a French-Canadian coach will boost ticket sales for the team’s three remaining games. This Sunday’s sell out would certainly lend itself to that theory. But a coach’s birthplace doesn’t translate to automatic wins. Chapdelaine has been the perennial bridesmaid in the CFL with OC stints all over the league but now he is finally the bride.
This will be his chance to show that he belongs in the coaching discussion once and for all. For his sake, I hope he’s ready.
Montreal is going to have to win games with Rakeem Cato behind centre. He’s been underwhelming in 2016 and has yet to show that he truly belongs as starting quarterback of this Alouettes team. There’s also talk that Chapdelaine hasn’t been too impressed with Cato either and should the formal Marshall star falter again, Chapdelaine will not hesitate to go with Vernon Adams as his QB.
Adams got some reps with the starters this week in practice and nobody really has any film on him, so it’d be hard for opponents to prepare for him. One of these youngsters will have no choice but to step up and be a leader. With an experienced OC now leading the way, hope remains that one of these two young men can be the quarterback of the future for this team.
They will be facing an Argos team that seems rudderless at times without Ricky Ray at the helm. Like the Alouettes, Toronto has some talented receivers and former Alouette Brandon Whitaker is still playing at a high level. Montreal’s defense will be in tough as they have not been great against the run in recent games and Toronto could keep this game on the ground with both Whitaker and Anthony Coombs each taking turns running the rock.
This game will come down to which quarterback rises to the occasion for their team. Willy’s lacklustre start with Winnipeg led to him being benched and eventually being traded to the Argos. The hope is that Toronto’s coaching staff, featuring former QBs Scott Milanovich and Marcus Brady, can rehabilitate Willy and be the successor of this team when Ricky Ray officially calls it a career.
A strong showing against Montreal’s D will go a long way for Willy. The young secondary will get a bit of relief with the return of veteran Billy Parker. But I expect to see some combination of Jonathon Mincy, Greg Henderson and Ramon Taylor in the lineup. They’ll have to shut down names like Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley and Diontae Spencer, who’s been a very reliable pair of hands over the past five games, regardless of who the QB is for the Boatmen.
Both teams are coming into this game absolutely starving for a win. And with the Edmonton Eskimos looming as a potential crossover opponent, this is looking more like a make or break game for both of these Eastern teams and their scant playoff hopes.
With the new month comes the end of weeknight games for the Alouettes, save for the Thanksgiving Monday tilt. This Sunday’s sellout will mean a ton of fans will get to experience the tailgate atmosphere live at Percival Molson Stadium for the first time. I highly encourage you all to take it in. There’s really nothing like it.
Tomorrow will also be the Canadian Armed Forces game, so be prepared for an ear-splitting flyover from two CF-18 fighter jets. They’ll be coming in hot from CFB Bagotville, home of the 425 Squadron that the Alouettes are named after. If that doesn’t get you fired up for the game, I highly doubt anything will.
And if you don’t like loud noises, then be sure to bring your earplugs because it will get LOUD when the game gets underway.
That’s all for now. Every game from this point on has to be treated like a playoff game.Win or go home. Montreal is throwing caution to the wind with their interim head coach, but this team truly thinks it can pull off a miracle run.
It happened in 2014 when the Alouettes started the season 1-7 and ended up 9-9 and in second place. Could it happen again? It has to start somewhere, may as well be with October’s first home match and a packed house.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.