The CFL season is winding down. With four games left, two being in the friendly confines of home, the Montreal Alouettes found themselves in a tie with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for 1st place in the East. Winnipeg had already lost this past weekend, so if Montreal were to defeat Hamilton then they would be alone in first place and 2 points ahead of the Blue Bombers.
Montreal’s record coming into the game was 9-5 whereas Hamilton’s was 7-7. The home side also came into the game being very tough at Percival Molson Stadium with a 5-2 record there this year. Hamilton has only won two games on the road. Montreal was enjoying a three game winning streak and had sounding defeated the Tiger Cats the last time they played 44-13. All the momentum, if you believe in that sort of thing, seemed squarely on the Als’ side. This game was the fourth and last game of the season versus Hamilton.
On a cold, grey afternoon in Montreal, Hamilton kicked off the ball to the Alouettes to start the game. Jason Medlock kicked off to Als’ returner Perry Floyd. He got to the 30 yard line where he fumbled the ball after a hit by Jamall Johnson. The ball was recovered by Hamilton’s Ray Mariuz and they started their first offensive series in the Montreal end. Not the start the Alouettes had hoped for. All season long the punt and kick-off returns have been a problem.
Hamilton’s third offensive play saw running back Terry Grant suffer a gruesome leg injury. Play was stopped while he was tended to and then carted off the field. The CFL with only 8 teams is a tightknit group and it was obvious that all players on the field were concerned about Grant.
The next play after the stoppage Montreal brought the house on a blitz and linebacker Chip Cox, who was everywhere all day, sacked Kevin Glenn. It resulted in a victory for the Als’ defense as Hamilton had to settle for a field goal. Less than 2 minutes later it seemed like Montreal was going to get a field goal of its own to tie the game, but kicker Sean Whyte missed his 44 yard attempt.
Before the game Hamilton Tiger Cats’ coach Marcel Bellefeuille stated that he would not hesitate putting his backup quarterback into the game if he felt Glenn was faltering. Well, it took only one offensive series for him to decide that and for the second offensive series backup Quinton Porter came out as quarterback. He did not do much better as his first series was two plays and out.
As rain started falling, Montreal tied the game at the 10:08 mark of the 1st quarter when Whyte made a 45 yard field goal. This time he was right down the middle. Not to be outdone Medlock made his second field goal less than 3 minutes later. Then Whyte got one, then Medlock missed one…well, you get the picture. It was a 7-6 Montreal lead (due to a single off a Whyte punt into the endzone) and both defenses were playing very well. Offenses would get to the red zone and then the defenses would bend but not break. No touchdowns were allowed until right before half time.
Once again Als’ returner Floyd had trouble keeping a Medlock punt in his possession. This time he was lucky as his fumble bounced right back into his hands and the Alouettes retained possession, but they were pinned back on their own 9 yard line. Veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo did not panic and proceeded to lead his team on a march down the field that led to the first touchdown of the game. It was a scoring drive of 11 plays and 101 yards.
The touchdown came off a great individual effort from running back Brandon Whitaker. Whitaker caught a short pass from Calvillo just inside the Hamilton 20 yard line and his ensuing feint caused two Hamilton defenders to miss him then he tiptoed down the sideline maintaining his balance for six points. This was Whitaker’s 8th touchdown (6 by pass and 2 running) and Calvillo’s 30th touchdown pass of the season. Montreal goes into half leading 14-9.
Kevin Glenn came on to start the 2nd half as quarterback as part of Bellefeuille’s trying to find the hot hand strategy. This hunch almost worked right off the bat as it looked like Hamilton had scored a touchdown of its own, but it was called back due to a Chris Williams (wide receiver) offside penalty. Two plays later Glenn fumbles the ball and it is recovered by the Als Anwar Stewart. Hamilton caught a break as the on field fumble call was reversed after video review. The snake bitten Tiger Cats still came away with no points as Medlock missed another field goal attempt and Floyd returned it to the Montreal 17 yard line.
Montreal added to their lead when Calvillo hooked up with wide receiver Kerry Watkins on a 22 yard touchdown pass to make it 21-9 for the home side. After this touchdown play became very sloppy on offense. Kevin Glenn threw an interception (Diamond Ferri) right after the second Montreal touchdown and then Whitaker fumbled the ball after being stripped of it by Matt Kirk. The ball was recovered by Stevie Baggs. This was the second fumble in two games for Whitaker. The teams traded field goals and then Glenn was intercepted again, this time by Cox.
With just over 3 minutes left in the game, Montreal added another field goal to make it 27-12. Most thought it was game over. It wasn’t. Hamilton made it interesting. At 12:46 Glenn made up for his weak play by running for a 15 yard touchdown. 27-19.
On Montreal’s next offensive series it was 3rd and 1 yard and Montreal coach Mark Trestman gambled bringing on backup quarterback Adrian McPherson to go for it instead of punting. It was a good gamble as the Als have a high success rate with these types of plays and one more 1st down would probably have meant game over. It didn’t work out this time as Hamilton stopped McPherson a couple of centimeters short of the 1st down.
Hamilton had the ball on the Montreal 40 yard line with just over a minute left in the game and behind by a touchdown and 2 point convert. A big 34 yard pass completion from Glenn to Aaron Kelly brought them to the Montreal 6 yard line. On a short 2 yard run by Avon Cobourne Glenn was hurt on the play, so Porter was brought back into the game at this important moment. Porter came through and tossed a 4 yard touchdown strike to Canadian receiver, Dave Stala.
Now all Hamilton needed was a 2 point conversion and the game, which we all thought was over long ago, would be tied. It looked like that was going to be the case as there was a breakdown in the Als’ defense, but at the last moment out of nowhere Chip Cox flew in and knocked the ball out of Kelly’s outstretched hands.
What an ending to the game! A tight collar victory for Montreal. Phew! The home side’s shaky play over the last couple of minutes made this a closer game than it should have been. Montreal’s record is now 10-5 and they are guaranteed a home playoff game. Just to be decided is if it is the Eastern Final or Semi-final. Their next game is a big one (might decide 1st place in the East) as it is on Saturday in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers.