It’s not a must-win game in the literal sense for the Ottawa Redblacks when they host to Montreal Alouettes on Thursday night at TD Place, but for Paul LaPolice’s 0-5 team, it seems like a critical game to win if they have hopes of saving their season.
Off the back of a two-point loss in week six against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Canadian receiver Nate Behar, who is well known for putting a positive spin on things, was frank with the situation. If the Redblacks don’t start winning games, it’s going to become too late very soon.
“It’s hard to find optimism at a point like this,” Behar said. “We just have to do better. There are all kinds of things you can waste your time thinking about like how close you are to a playoff spot or how close we are to a home playoff game, but that’s only going to get farther and farther away if we don’t find a way to win games.”
“The focus has to just be on winning,” Behar continued. “We have found magical ways to lose. If we can just find a way to not give games away, I think we are going to be in a good place, truly.”
So far this season, four of the Redblacks’ five games have been decided by seven or fewer points, but the team hasn’t taken significant steps forward since the start of the campaign. Behar says the team isn’t getting worse, but they aren’t accelerating the process as they need to be.
“With offensive football at a level this high, there are a million different things that can go wrong on any given play,” Behar said. “I don’t think we are trending in the wrong direction by any stretch, but we’re not trending in the right direction at the speed we should be.”
Since joining the Redblacks ahead of the 2019 season, Behar has been a part of just six wins, losing the other 31 games he has been around for. It’s not just about the five games this season for Behar, and that has taken a toll on the 27-year-old.
“Absolutely, I think you would have to be a crazy person not to be frustrated,” Behar admitted. “With anything in life, you’re not doing anybody any favours if you’re not willing to work on what you can do to make a positive impact. But there’s obviously frustration. Losing is horrible, and the scariest thing is thinking that I’m almost growing numb to it. That’s not something that I can let live.”
If there was any positive mojo to carry into Thursday night’s game, it’s what happened the last time these two teams met. In 2021, Caleb Evans led the Redblacks to a win in Montreal in the last game of the season, and although it meant nothing for Ottawa, it allowed them to end the season on a high note. Things have changed in the bird’s nest since that game, but the Redblacks and Alouettes are very familiar foes.
“We have played them so many times over the past few years and you feel like you know them so well,” Behar said. “We know what we are going to see. It’s a very solid defensive line, they are playing a little differently in the secondary now with Noel Thorpe over there, but however they line up, we’ll be ready to go. We all know them well, and it’s always a little testy, and a little feisty.”
There’s no hiding the importance of this game. A loss would drop the Redblacks to 0-6, well behind both the Argonauts (who could have three wins should they beat Saskatchewan) and the Alouettes themselves who would also get their second win. Additionally, Ottawa’s loss to Hamilton last week means they are the only winless team in the CFL right now. A win, however, would put Ottawa right back in the mix.
“We must capitalize,” Behar stressed. “Italicize it, bold it, and underline it. There’s no other way to look at it. There’s nothing to worry about on Friday. There’s no sunrise to worry about, there’s no sunset to worry about, it ends on Thursday. The city deserves it, we deserve it, and we have to go earn it.”
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