The Labour Day long weekend got off to a booming start in the nation’s capital with the Redblacks (1-3) hosting the Alouettes (2-2) in what turned out to be the highest-scoring game so far of the 2021 Canadian Football League season.
And in a result that didn’t go the way most fans at TD Place had envisaged in the week leading up to Friday night’s contest, Montreal completely dominated the home team to win big time 51-29. The Als became the first team in the CFL this season to crack the half-century mark, which is cricket parlance for when a batsman reaches 50.
Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had a huge game throwing four touchdown passes, two apiece to receivers Jake Wieneke and Eugene Lewis. Both of them also notched 100-yard games.
“I was out there just pumped up and just ready to go,” Adams said. “I saw the field clearly and receivers were making great plays for me.”
The Als’ defence had three interceptions, one of them a pick-six to linebacker Patrick Levels. Rookie kicker David Côté added three field goals for Montreal to add to his season tally.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Ottawa quarterback Matt Nichols had a night to forget. He completed just two of five passes for 23 yards before taking a late hit and landing hard on his wrist. He was replaced by Dominique Davis, who tossed two touchdown passes to former Blue Bombers receiver Daniel Petermann, but he also threw two picks at inopportune times.
Next up, the Blue Bombers (4-1) made the shortish trek to neighbouring Saskatchewan to tackle their archrivals at Mosaic Stadium and despite starting as slight underdogs, the reigning Grey Cup champions did something they’d rarely done in years gone by, they beat the Roughriders (3-1) pretty handily 23-8 in Regina.
In reality, this game was virtually an even money bet and could have gone either way, although most pundits were leaning the home team’s way leading up to the fixture. The Bombers saw it differently, however, and apart from the second quarter, when Saskatchewan did all of its scoring, they controlled things.
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Quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Cody Fajardo were both limited to less than 300 yards, while Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris moved up another notch on the CFL’s all-time rushing leader list with 95 hard-gained yards on the ground. The Blue Bomber’s backup QB Sean McGuire scored two rushing touchdowns on short-yardage plays at the goal line.
“Our guys played extremely well in a dogfight,” said Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea.
It was Saskatchewan’s first loss of the season.
That took us to Labour Day Monday and the much-anticipated doubleheader. In the early game, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-2) erased any doubts about their previous win against Montreal being a fluke by stamping their authority over Toronto (2-2) with a comfortable 32-19 win in their 2021 home opener.
Ticats quarterback Dane Evans threw two scores and defensive back Simoni Lawrence nabbed a pick-six en route to the victory. Kick returner Frankie Williams also made the highlight reel when he ran back a punt for a touchdown.
Hamilton’s Aussie punter Joel Whitford had a good game by often pinning the Argonauts deep in their own end, as well as scoring a single with one of his punts in the fourth quarter.
Neither Argos quarterback Nick Arbuckle nor McLeod Bethel-Thompson was able to put together consistent drives to keep Toronto in the hunt.
That brought us to the final game of the week, an Alberta rivalry between the Edmonton Elks (2-2) and Calgary Stampeders (1-4). A crowd of over 31,000 packed into McMahon Stadium in Calgary to see the Elks break their long Labour Day drought to win 32-20.
Edmonton quarterback Trevor Harris had a blinder throwing four touchdown passes and netting 398 yards. Calgary QB Jake Maier also played well on the losing side notching his third straight 300-yard game.
It was a compelling and relatively competitive matchup with the road team finishing the stronger of the two in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
What this round of the season has shown us is that the Stamps need to start winning, and soon, or they could very quickly find themselves out of contention. So, maybe it’s time to give Canadian quarterback Michael O’Conner a go under centre to show what he can do.
Winnipeg showed that it’s the team to beat, certainly in the West if not the entire league, and that the earlier loss to Toronto was probably an aberration as the Argos haven’t been much chop since then. And of course, it goes without saying that apart from Calgary, Ottawa is the other big disappointment thus far.