June 8, 2022

5 reasons to follow the first game of the season

1 – Vernon Adams Jr. will start at quarterback

Vernon Adams Jr. went into training camp as the starting quarterback, and he came out of camp with the same title.

The 29-year-old had a solid training camp in Trois-Rivieres, but he had an up-and-down performance in his only pre-season appearance which came last Friday against the Ottawa Redblacks.

Yes, the offence must clean up the turnovers they had against the Redblacks, but there were positives signs too. Adams Jr. led his team on a long touchdown drive on the opening series of the game, and the Als ended up having a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

“We made mistakes as a team,” Adams Jr. said after practice on Monday. “Obviously, you want to take care of the ball. That’s the main thing. Take care of the ball, take care of yourself as a player. That’s it, really. Keep moving forward.”

Trevor Harris also looked sharp in camp. The competition between the two seems to have gotten the best out of both players and there’s no reason that can’t continue heading into the regular season. The reality in the CFL is that good teams often use more than one quarterback to get the job done over the course of an entire season.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats used Jeremiah Masoli and Dane Evans in 2019 and 2021, and they made it to the Grey Cup both years. In 2019, The Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the title while using Zach Collaros and Chris Steveler. And last season, injuries forced the Als to use three different starting quarterbacks.

It’s entirely possible that we see Adams Jr. and Harris both contribute at times this season. You also can’t forget the veteran presence of third quarterback Dominique Davis, who played well during both of his preseason appearances.

“We feel really good about (Adams Jr.) being the quarterback and we feel really good about Trevor being here as well,” said head coach Khari Jones. “Trevor’s been great for us, he’s been great for Vernon and they’re going to be great for each other and that’s what I’m excited about. I saw the interaction between those two during camp and it was outstanding. They’re both competing against each other, but they’re both working with each other and that’s what we want.”

2 – Key players return to practice

When the Als jumped on the field for practice on Monday, they welcomed back several key figures that had been dealing with nagging injuries.

Running back William Stanback (limited), receiver Jake Wieneke (full practice), defensive back Greg Reid (full) and the interior of the offensive line (full) were all back on the field.

Stanback rotated in and out with the first-team offence at times this week. Canadian running back Jeshrun Antwi filled in when the Als starter was on the sideline.

Getting Wieneke back is also massive for the Als, as he was the CFL leader in touchdown receptions (11) in 2021.

Staring strong side defensive back Najee Murray didn’t participate in practice. He was doing individual drills on the sideline throughout the week. He suffered an injury early in the first preseason game against the Ticats in Hamilton. He was being replaced by Rodney Randle.

3 – Will we see Philpot vs. Philpot?

For the first time in their careers, Als receiver Tyson Philpot might go up against his twin brother, Jalen, on Thursday night.

Tyson was drafted ninth overall by Montreal in last May’s CFL Draft, while Jalen was selected fifth by the Stamps. Both players spent their university careers with the Calgary Dinos, where they played their home games at McMahon Stadium, which is where Thursday’s game will take place.

The two played in a high school all-star game against each other, but they’ve never gone head-to-head in a meaningful game. Obviously, the two receivers would have to go up against each other on special teams if they’re going to be on the field at the same time.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if Jalen is going to suit up for the Stamps at this point. He was limited in practice this week, as he’s fighting through a hamstring injury.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit,” Tyson said after practice on Monday. “I just asked him how he was doing. He was just coming back from an injury as well, so kind of like that. Nothing on the football side really, no. We kind of both stay humble, obviously we’re not sharing anything personal about the teams. He’s excited. I think we’ll probably go for dinner before the game. A lot of family is coming out. It’s going to be a cool time.”

4 – Hergy Mayala returns to Calgary

For the first time since signing with the Alouettes as a free agent, receiver Hergy Mayala will suit up against his former team.

Mayala, who wears number one for the Als, has a strong rookie season with the Stamps in 2019, as the former first-rounder caught 38 passes for 562 yards and five touchdowns that year. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t utilized the same way in 2021.

The 26-year-old had just 29 receptions for 284 yards and no touchdowns in three fewer games in 2021.

“For me, it was all about being utilized in ways that I thought I should be used (in Calgary),” Mayala said after practice on Tuesday. “As the season went on, I got the feeling that it wasn’t a priority for the organization. The team and I talked, and we understood that we either had to give this another short or start over somewhere else, and that’s what I decided was best for my career.”

5 – Stampeders dominate in preseason

The Stamps had as good of a preseason as you can possibly have. In Week 1, they smashed the B.C. Lions, 41-6, at McMahon Stadium. Even though they won the game easily, starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell finished 3-for-10 with 37 yards passing and two interceptions.

In Week 2 of the preseason, the Stamps went on the road and dismantled the Elks in Edmonton, 37-7. Mitchell didn’t suit up in that one. Backup quarterback Jake Maier was six-for-seven with 59 yards passing, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

The last two meetings between the Als and Stamps in Calgary have been incredibly entertaining. In 2019, Montreal overcame an 11-point deficit in the final two minutes to win the game in double overtime. The final score was 40-34 for the Als.

In 2021, the Als’ comeback bid came up just short, as Geno Lewis was tackled right outside the Calgary end zone with no time remaining in the game. Montreal lost 28-22.