It’s going to be hot Friday night at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, and we’re not only talking about the weather! Our Alouettes are eager to welcome the Toronto Argonauts… just like you, no doubt! The August 11 game comes with a lot of emotion, especially for the veterans who will be going up against their former teammates – – S. J. Green, Bear Woods and Brandon Whitaker – – as well as for former Alouettes brain trust Jim Popp and Marc Trestman. Although our opponents might seem like family, don’t think for a moment that we’re going to be the perfect hosts! In the CFL, nothing is for certain going into the eighth week of the season… but in Montreal, what we are sure of is that Jacques Chapdelaine’s men are ready to double-up their efforts to claim first spot in the East Division.
The good news is that after recuperating during the bye week, the team is ready for the next challenge. And many were busy while on “vacation”… we saw that Mincy was taking reps, Logan was biking, B. J., LBJ and Boris were teaching the finer points of football to some race car drivers, Fredo Plesius and Haïdara motivated youngsters in Montreal North… morale is good in the Montreal locker room this week and everyone is focused on Friday’s big game, which is only the second so far this season against an East Division opponent. Defensive assistant Billy Parker said he was impressed to see the defensive unit so disciplined coming off the bye week. “I was really encouraged by what I saw from the players. They all came back ready to work hard. The energy during practice was phenomenal, even Jacques said so. The guys were focused, the tempo was very, very good, and we are definitely on the right track to produce a win against Toronto.” The players weren’t the only ones who benefited from the bye week. Jacques and his coaching staff took advantage of the downtime to analyze the first third of the season and make adjustments so that each unit will be able to perform to their maximum potential.
Some defensive alterations
Billy Parker and the rest of the defensive coaching staff have an interesting “puzzle” to solve this week. Following the loss of free safety Chris Ackie for the rest of the season, Noel Thorpe’s defence gets a chance to show its depth. On Friday night we’ll get to see some new faces in action starting with Anthony Sarao at linebacker and Dondre Wright at safety. Even though it remains uncertain whether Ricky Ray will play, we’re still nervous about someone we know very well: S. J. Green. Support from the right side (consisting of linebacker Chip Cox and defensive backs Stewart and Dozier) will be crucial if we want to stop the highly-regarded #19, and we’re also counting on the reactivated Jonathon Mincy and Ky Hébert to thwart the Toronto offence’s long-passing game. According to coach Parker, a return to the basics is necessary. “We need to rediscover our style of play, our brand. We play fast, we play hard and we get the ball back quickly. If we do those things, the night will go well.” That brand also includes undoubtedly a lot of quarterback sacks, courtesy of John Bowman. We’ll be relying on the veteran defensive end – – who has racked-up 115 sacks in his career – – to rattle whoever will be playing quarterback for the Boatmen. Interesting fact: it’s when going-up against the Argos when John is at his best. Of his 155 sacks, 25 have been versus Toronto.
An unstoppable attack
Throughout the years, Darian Durant has learned to remain level-headed after a victory and to learn valuable lessons following a loss. We have seen him recover quickly several times this year and deliver the goods. So even while the action on the field will be fast and furious on Friday night, the experience and the calmness of our veteran quarterback will be a major advantage for the offence. This will be Darian’s 120th career game, and he’ll have the opportunity to join an elite group of the 15 best quarterbacks ever. If he passes for 135 yards, he’ll overtake Sam Etcheverry for 14th place for all-time passing yards. Considering that in each of the past two games Darian threw for more than 300 yards, surpassing The Rifle is certainly within reach.
If there is one area in which our Alouettes have a clear advantage over the Argos, it’s in the ground game. In six games, the Als have amassed 685 rushing yards. Conversely, the Argos have only rushed for a total of 363 yards, and that’s after seven games. We’re looking forward to seeing what our offensive backs have in store for us, including J.-C. Beaulieu: The former Vert et Or amazes us more and more with each game! Along with his fellow Quebecer Philippe Gagnon – – who’ll be starting at guard for the first time – – the two could be key components for an offence that will be focused on stopping Victor Butler from registering any sacks and to limit the damage that Bear Woods can potentially cause.
The holy trinity
Of course, we have our own offensive stars to watch as well: B. J. Cunningham, Ernest Jackson and Nik Lewis! The receiving corps has developed terrific chemistry. B. J. and E. J. have become good friends and their progress speaks for itself. Ranked sixth in the league with 475 receiving yards, Cunningham, who also has three touchdowns this season, appears to be ready for glory! The 28-year-old receiver has a reputation for being a good student and he is fortunate to have a good teacher: Nik Lewis. We like to call Nik the “bulldozer,” and he’s currently in third place all-time in the CFL with 1,011 career receptions. He only needs seven more to overtake Ben Cahoon for second spot and 19 to surpass Geroy Simon’s record of 1,029 receptions. If his pace continues, Nik should overtake Geroy later this autumn.
We’ll see you at 7:30 p.m. at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium for the game of the year!
Here’s a tip: get there early to make sure you don’t miss happy hour… and wear your colours, it’s the Pride Game!