MONTREAL — After a 6-2 start to the season, the Montreal Alouettes are now one win away from a Gray Cup spot.
The Alouettes led Sunday’s East semifinals with a 28-17 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from start to finish and secured a spot in next weekend’s division finals in Toronto.
“I’m so proud of the players,” said Danny Maciocia, Alouette’s general manager and acting coach. “It hasn’t been an easy year for them on or off the field and they never stopped. Sometimes it’s hard to explain, you just have to live it to understand it and these guys lived it.
“I look at where we are now and I think a few months ago we were sitting here with a 2-6 record and few people believed we could qualify for the playoffs. I’m really happy for the whole organization, especially the players and the coaching staff who have been through a lot.”
Montreal rebounded in the second half of the regular season, finishing 9-9. The Alouettes started Sunday strong and secured the win when David Cote kicked a field goal with 16 seconds left.
Trevor Harris threw for 243 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Walter Fletcher and Dominique Davis scored sizzling touchdowns.
Fletcher has flown under the radar since being acquired by the Edmonton Elks in June but has proved a worthy asset to the Als.
“This opportunity was a blessing,” he said. “When I got the call that I was swapped, I really didn’t know what to make of it. Fast forward to now, it’s just been a massive journey.
“There have been some ups and downs throughout the year but overall I think it’s coming together and I’m very happy to be making my move at the right time.”
Dane Evans threw for 123 yards and an interception. Former Alouettes pivot Matthew Shiltz threw for 127 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the third quarter.
“It was just a spark, that’s it,” said Ticats coach Orlondo Steinauer about the QB change. “We couldn’t get the ball into the end zone, which is what we talked about and we were able to put it in there once.”
The loss will see Hamilton miss the East Final for the first time since 2017.
“It feels terrible. We’re not used to that,” said Steinauer. “We don’t really want to get used to it, but today we didn’t play well enough to go through to the playoffs.
“Emotionally it’s tough. It’s new to us here in recent history, but for now it’s a reality.”
Chandler Worthy hit a 49-yard return on the opening kickoff. Four games later, Harris found Jake Weineke with a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Montreal a 7-0 early lead.
The Ticats tried to respond to the drive that followed, but settled on a 47-yard field goal from Seth Small.
Fletcher ran in Montreal’s second touchdown, but a command center check revealed he had been stopped at the two-yard line. Davis scored with a QB sneak to give the Alouettes a 14-3 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Evans found Tim White with a 30-yard pass that led to Small’s second field goal early in the second quarter.
Fletcher extended Montreal’s lead on a 33-yard TD run and a single gave Montreal a 22-6 lead at halftime.
“Not many people would have bet that we would score 22 points in the first half and like we did,” Maciocia said.
The Tiger-Cats turned to Shiltz as quarterback early in the third quarter and he found Steven Dunbar with a 12-yard pass for Hamilton’s first touchdown. Shiltz then located Anthony Johnson to complete the two-point conversion.
Cote kicked a 13-yard field goal to end the third quarter. Small responded with his second field goal of the game to cut Montreal’s lead to 25-17.
During the third quarter and early in the fourth, the Alouettes’ coaching staff lost communication with Harris through his helmet-mounted headset.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Maciocia said. “But despite that, Hamilton put up some good fights in the second half of the game.”
“We decided to give our running backs the ball, run the clock and get out of our own end zone and get a few points. The way we played defensively today, we knew we had enough points to win.”
Tyrice Beverette dismissed Shiltz, who was fumbling the football, with a 2:14 in fourth. Chris Ackie recovered at Hamilton’s 24-yard line.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 6, 2022.
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