Clock strikes midnight for the Montreal Alouettes’ Cinderella season

It seems almost poetic that there is a good chance that the next owner(s) of the Montreal Alouettes made their bones in Hollywood as film/TV producers. One look at the 2019 season for this team and you almost wonder if it was scripted by one of Tinseltown’s great storytellers.

Imagine a script writer penning this particular tale and pitching it to a studio head; a hard luck football team goes through major upheaval, rids themselves of their head coach and general manager and go on a tear throughout the league. Led by a rookie head coach, a young quarterback who was left to die on the vine and a bunch of dudes that likely didn’t know any better.

I’m not sure any studio type would even bite on such an outlandish scenario. Too unrealistic, they’d likely bellow. Who the hell would ever believe such nonsense, they’d exclaim. But the Alouettes’ 2019 season was as real as it comes and it may not make for a great movie, but it sure made for one heck of a story to tell.

If this was a scripted affair, I’m not sure I would have written such an early exit for this team myself. But that’s just me.

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The Alouettes lost the Eastern Semi-Final to the Edmonton Eskimos by a score of 37-29 in front of the biggest and loudest crowd that Percival Molson Stadium has seen in a long time. Montrealers had waited five long years for this party and even though the final result wasn’t what they wanted, a statement was made by the fans of this football team. The Alouettes are back and this is truly their house again.

This game had all the elements that we’ve come to expect from Montreal in 2019; lots of scoring, incredible jaw-dropping plays and a team that kept fighting until the end. Even when the Alouettes got down, the support never wavered. The noise from the stands was deafening from start to finish and made for an atmosphere like no other.

So much so, even Edmonton QB Trevor Harris had to praise Alouettes Nation for making his day a tough one. He compared Sunday’s noise level to the 2012 Eastern Final that had over 50000 fans in Olympic Stadium and even claimed that he lost his voice trying to yell out his play calls over the tremendous din.

This was a game that had high energy throughout. Every point was earned as each team battled through adversity. The Eskimos had a lot to prove and very few people gave them a chance in this hostile environment. While the Alouettes were eager to show that despite the hardships from earlier in the year, that they deserved to be here in this moment.

It took all 60 minutes on the clock, but this was a war that won’t be soon forgotten by all who witnessed it.

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So how did the Edmonton Eskimos win this game? After all, they plodded their way into the crossover spot with an 8-10 record and did it without Harris’ services in the latter part of the regular season. On paper, some would say this match should have been a gimme for the Alouettes.

But Trevor Harris finds a way to shine in the playoffs. And he always finds a way to beat the Montreal Alouettes, whether he’s an Eskimo or an Ottawa RedBlack. He knew he had to play a phenomenal game on Sunday and he certainly did. Harris went 36 of 39 with 421 passing yards and one throwing touchdown. He was picked off once but otherwise he was as accurate as the day was long.

He and the Eskimos coaching staff were able to surgically carve up this Alouettes defense, who gave up a ridiculous amount of yardage in the air and on the ground. Most troubling was the lack of adjustments from Alouettes DC Bob Slowik in the second half that really let Edmonton dictate the pace of the matchup.

Harris was also helped out by his bruising running back C.J. Gable, who notched two touchdowns and 68 all-purpose yards. The Eskimos’ aerial attack was led by Harris’ favourite target Greg Ellingson, who notched 154 receiving yards on this defense. In total, Harris spread the ball well to eight different receivers on the day.

The Eskimos had a plan and they worked it to perfection in order to advance to the Eastern Final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Sunday.

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This game saw the best and worst from Vernon Adams Jr., who proved that of all the statistics that you can measure in the CFL, the one that cannot be measured is the one that he arguably leads the league in: heart. Vernon Adams proved himself once again to be a warrior to the end.

Adams went 14 of 27 with 226 passing yards and a rushing touchdown. He was picked off three times (the first INT featured Adams taking a very suspicious head shot that went uncalled by the CFL’s eye in the sky) and had to work extra hard to battle this defense.

William Stanback rumbled into the end zone for a pair of touchdowns despite Edmonton’s best efforts to contain this exciting playmaker. All of Montreal’s touchdowns this past Sunday came on the ground. Not only did Adams and Stanback find the end zone with their feet but so did the electrifying returner Mario Alford, who took a kickoff back 99 yards for a score. Alford has been a great find for this Alouettes team and his ceiling is very high to be a major force for this special teams unit.

True to form for these Alouettes, this game was decided in the waning moments of the game. The “Cardiac Kids” have found ways to win so many tight games this year but despite the best efforts of the Alouettes’ MOP nominee, it just wasn’t meant to be.

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Down by 5 after Adams ran in for his touchdown, the Alouettes had two prime opportunities to complete the comeback bid. It was after the three minute warning where Adams got that determined look in his eye and got ready to do what he’s done at least ten times before; will his team to victory.

Except on this drive, Adams made a bad read and fired a pass into the hands of Josh Johnson, who already picked off Adams earlier in the game. This would be a back-breaking pick for many, but the Alouettes weren’t going to go down that easy. Adams wasn’t ready for his season to end on such an errant play.

After Edmonton’s Sean Whyte notched his FIFTH field goal to put the Eskimos up by eight, Adams was going to get one more chance to pull off that miracle. After an incomplete pass, Vernon took to the sky and desperately heaved the ball into the air, with the hopes that receiver extraordinaire Eugene Lewis would come down with it and extend the drive for Montreal.

But alas, the script that appeared written in the stars called for a plot twist that didn’t make for a happy ending if you’re an Alouettes fan. For the third time of the day, Josh Johnson claimed ownership of the football. The final nail of the Alouettes’ coffin was driven in and the Cardiac Kids flatlined.

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After the game, a despondent Adams did what many people in his position likely wouldn’t have done; he faced the music like a pro. He took full responsibility for the loss in speaking with the media afterwards. Adams also took the time to meet with Alouettes fans post-game and even thanked them for their faith in him and the team this season.

This has been a year of growth and evolution for the young veteran QB. From starting the year FOURTH on the depth chart to putting this team on his back and leading them to their first winning season in seven years, Vernon has become the quarterback that this franchise has sorely needed for a long time. In 2019, Vernon Adams became THE franchise quarterback and undisputed leader of the Montreal Alouettes.

He’s not Tracy Ham. He’s not Anthony Calvillo. He’s not Darian Durant. He’s not Kevin Glenn. He’s definitely not the myriad of also-rans that have taken a snap under centre for this team since 2013. He’s not who you want him to be or think he should be.

He is Vernon Adams. And asking him to be anything else would be a disservice to this man and leader. Adams proved in 2019 that he wasn’t perfect. But he didn’t lose this game on Sunday by himself; he was let down by a defense that simply wasn’t ready for a quarterback like Trevor Harris.

Adams proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is going to be an elite quarterback in the Canadian Football League. All he needed was a chance and he made the most of the opportunity given to him by head coach Khari Jones and company. Vernon has gone through it all in 2019 and this trial by fire made him a better QB and man.

Adams will be back in 2020 for the Alouettes and even with new ownership in place, this will be his team to lose. But after this season and how this city has embraced him as their own, I don’t see Vernon Adams regressing. I see the growth that led him to be an MOP candidate and I expect him to use this season as motivation to be even greater in 2020.

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So now the off-season has begun for the Montreal Alouettes. There are a LOT of questions that will need answering in regards to this franchise, both on and off the field.

We’ll dive into that here on The ALSternative as the fall turns into winter. But for now, we’re going to look back at this supposed “lost season” and marvel at everything that came about. From an unlikely head coach rising up to lead a team that no one expected to matter to a underappreciated quarterback becoming a hero for a city in need of one.

This has been a ride like no other and while it ended sooner than hoped, I don’t think anyone who’s supported this Alouettes team will look back at this season and feel like they didn’t get a major return on their investment.

Now let’s see if anyone is going to buy the Hollywood story that is the Montreal Alouettes.

As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!