October 7, 2022

Preview: Als can clinch playoff spot on Monday afternoon

The potential return of William Stanback:

Alouettes fans have been waiting patiently for the return of their superstar running back William Stanback. Well, that moment has finally arrived. Stanback suffered a lower-body injury in Week 1 against Calgary. Stanback underwent surgery in June to repair a fractured ankle, and he’s been sidelined ever since.

The 28-year-old was the East Division finalist for the M.O.P. award last season. Despite missing two games in 2021, he still managed to rush for a league-leading 1176 yards and three touchdowns in 12 outings. He was the only player in the league to run for more than 900 yards.

In two games against the Redblacks last year, Stanback had 22 carries for 157 yards, which works out to an average of 7.13 yards per carry.

“Just getting back on the same page with everybody,” Stanback said when asked about the difficulties of knocking off rust. “Things do change. A little bit of the terminology and play calling (is different), but I stuck with the playbook. Even when I was out of the lineup, I was still getting the plays and learning them to make sure that when I do come back, I’m not falling short of anything and I’m on the same page as the guys on the offensive side of the ball. Knocking off rust, it’s hard sometimes because you haven’t been running around and playing football at this speed. All I’ve been doing is running by myself on the treadmill.”

Looking to clinch:

A win over the Redblacks this week would allow the Alouettes to clinch a playoff spot and a home playoff game in November. The last time the Als played a postseason game at Percival Molson Stadium was in 2019, when they lost to Trevor Harris’ Edmonton squad.

Last season, the Als finished third in the East Division which meant that they had to travel to Hamilton to take on the Tiger-Cats in the East semi-final.

Having home-field advantage in the playoffs is huge, so this would be a big step, but the Als can still finish first in the East, which is even more important because it would allow them to have a bye to the Division Final.

Heading into this week’s action, the Als find themselves two points behind the Toronto Argonauts for first. The Argos are hosting the BC Lions on Saturday. They finish the season with a game in Edmonton next week before playing the Als in a home-and-home series. Montreal will play Ottawa next Friday night.

Will a Canadian receiver shine again?

The Als and Redblacks have faced off twice already this season. Each time they’ve gone head-to-head, a Canadian has led the Alouettes in receiving yards. During the 40-33 win in Ottawa, Hergy Mayala led the way with five receptions for 102 yards and one touchdown. During last month’s loss at Percival Molson Stadium, Tyson Philpot was the top pass-catcher, as he had 71 yards on four receptions.

Mayala and Philpot could potentially step up again on Monday afternoon, but Kaion Julien-Grant could be the breakout candidate, too.

He had a pair of important receptions in last week’s game against the Edmonton Elks, and he’s registered at least 46 receiving yards in three of his last six games. The 26-year-old has shown quite a bit of improvement in 2022, as he’s up to 27 catches for 420 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.

Last season, he had eight receptions for 133 yards and zero touchdowns in 14 outings.

“The hashmarks (being moved in) are definitely helping,” Julien-Grant said of his increased success this year. “Being utilized closer (to the quarterback) is helping. Sometimes I’m between the hashes and the numbers. Just getting involved in the intermediate and short routes and just doing what I can do.

“Coming in and out of my breaks in my routes, I’m trying to become a better route runner. My yards after the catch (has improved too). Getting up field and making at least one person miss.”

The Redblacks:

Ottawa will head into this game with a 3-11 record, but they aren’t completely out of the playoff picture yet. They need to win their remaining four games and get some help, but there’s still a chance they could sneak in.

The Redblacks made a significant chance to their organization late last week when they fired head coach Paul Lapolice. Special teams coordinator Bob Dyce will take over on an interim basis.

“For us, this is an important game,” Maciocia said after Friday’s practice at Percival Molson Stadium. “For them, they can still make the playoffs mathematically, but they made a coaching change. There’s still a lot for them to play for when it comes to jobs and opportunities for players and coaches. We know that they’re going to give us their best effort. We have to make sure we show up to play. We need to be present physically and mentally.”