Redblacks Recap: Ottawa Wins Even if the Redblacks Lose

By: Santino Filoso

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On an emotional Friday night, and on the first big gathering since Wednesday’s shooting, Ottawa came together as a community to begin healing through the power of sports. The Redblacks played an inspired game, buoyed by the energy and emotion of an 8th straight sell out crowd at TD Place but unfortunately still couldn’t find a way to finish, losing to the Alouettes and dropping  their record to 2-14  on the year.

Pre-game:

The vibe around the city and build up to the game was simply outstanding with players and fans alike aware of its significance

https://twitter.com/mute4383/status/525653931989688321

https://twitter.com/firmfit1/status/525703910011699201

The world’s biggest Canadian flag (on loan from the Ticats) is displayed across the field as Redblacks and Alouette players stand side by side during the singing of O Canada

Burris’ makes an incredible pre-game speech to the offence

1st Quarter:

– The Redblacks get the ball to start and move it with ease. Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) makes a 22 yard catch before Roy Finch (#19) and Jonathan Williams (#23) pound the rock on three straight plays picking up 5, 10 and 8 yards. Patrick Lavoie (#81) gets in on the fun with his own 10 yard catch and Henry² caps the drive off in style hauling in a 6 yard TD pass

Montreal Alouettes v Ottawa RedBlacks

– With his 1st passing touchdown at home in 94 possessions, Henry Burris (#1) moves into 3rd place all time, passing Ron Lancaster with 334 career passing TDs.

– Montreal responds with a long drive of their own, moving the chains twice with big second down catches by SJ Green. The Als appear to settle for a FG attempt when Jerrell Gavins (#24) nearly gets a pick six from his own end zone but Montreal coach Tom Higgins challenges for pass interference

– About 2.7 seconds after the challenge flag hits the ground, the league overturns the call, giving the Als a first down on Ottawa’s 1 yard line. Short yardage specialist Tanner “One Yard Ain’t No Thang” Marsh wastes no time punching it in on the QB sneak to tie the game at 7

– A heavy dose of Williams bulldozing defenders and Finch weaving through would be tacklers allows the Redblacks to march the ball deep into Als territory before the promising drive ends when Burris’ pass is tipped and picked off.

Never a bad call to give this man the ball
Never a bad call to give this man the ball

2nd Quarter:

– A Marlon Smith (#98) sack is wiped out by a pass interference call on Gavins (his second of the night) but continued heavy pressure forces Crompton to throw an incompletion and ensures the Als have to punt

– True to his word, HC Rick Campbell puts Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) in for a series and after handing off to Williams for a 4 yard loss, he throws into heavy coverage and his first pass of the night is picked off

The future?
The future?

– Abdul Kanneh (#14) immediately gets Ottawa the ball back with his own interception

– O’Brien comes in at QB again and on the ensuing play William’s leg gets awkwardly twisted as he is pulled down

– After the injury time out Burris re-enters the game and hits Lavoie for a first down gain but his next two passes fall incomplete. Brett Maher’s (#3) beautiful punt pins the Als on their 5 yard line

– A swarming defence nearly get its second interception of the night before forcing a two and out

– Much to R-Nation’s relief Williams re-enters the game, looking no worse for the wear

A sight for sore eyes though he wasn't used in the 2nd half
A sight for sore eyes though he wasn’t used in the 2nd half

– Former Renegade LB Kyries Hebert shows that there’s no place like home as he blows up a screen on 2nd down. Things go from bad to worse when Maher’s punt is blocked

The last active Renegade
The last active Renegade still making plays

– Montreal settles for a 41 yard FG when Antoine “The Phenom” Pruneau (#6) sniffs out the screen for a loss and Keith “I Like Hittin’ People” Shologan (#74) and Justin Capicciotti (#93) meet at the QB, sacking Crompton

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– Backed up by flags, a sack leads to a two and out for the Redblacks

– The defence bends but doesn’t break and the Als eventually kick a 14 yard FG

– With less than a minute left in the game, O’Brien comes back in at QB and hands off to Finch three times in a row

– After 30 minutes, Habs lead 13-7

Half-time:

3rd Quarter:

– Als get the ball to start the second half and two questionable flags on Kanneh, (pass inference and later objectionable conduct) lead directly to a touchdown, 20-7 for the Als

– Burris’ pass hits Henry² right in the hands, but he can’t hang on and instead pops it up for the player with the best name in the CFL, Bear Woods, who picks it off

Burris celebrating the tip drill
“It was right in his hands!”

– Montreal turns the turnover into points with a 47 yard FG

– The Redblacks string together a few first downs courtesy of hard running from Finch and catches by Khalil Paden (#13) and Carlton Mitchell (#88) but the drive stalls when Burris is sacked on 2nd down

– Faced with 3rd and 9 and an inattentive Montreal defence, Maher fakes the punt and passes to Lavoie for a 38 yard gain

lavoiecatch

– After an incompletion and yet another sack, Maher splits the uprights with a 21 yard FG to make it 23-10

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4th Quarter:

– Despite losing a shoe, Brandyn Thompson (#25) makes a beautiful play and breaks up a deep pass on 2nd down

– O’Brien gets another series and proceeds to book up with Wallace “Boom or Bust” Miles (#84) on a 44 yard bomb before second round pick Scott Macdonell (#83) makes a catch, splits two defenders and rumbles 58 yards to the house for his first career touchdown. In 2 plays and 56 seconds the Redblacks cover 102 yards.

The first of many
The first of many

– Relentless defensive pressure earns another Alouette two and out

– O’Brien and the offence go two and out but Maher’s coffin corner punt again pins the Als deep

– Pruneau nearly picks off Crompton and on the next play Kanneh forces a fumble which is recovered by Jovon Johnson. Unfortunately and inexplicably the call is overturned after a review when the officials claim the Montreal player was down by contact

– Not satisfied with the bush league ruling or perhaps simply to spite the refs, HC Rick Campbell blows everyone’s mind by challenging the review, asking the refs to take a second look at the play. The review of the review is quickly shot down by the officials who confirm the review

– The Als march down the field in small chunks, chewing up precious clock before eventually punting. Ottawa takes over on their own 10 with 2:31 left in the game

With short pass after short pass, it was death by 1000 cuts for the Redblacks
With short pass after short pass, it was death by 1000 cuts for the Redblacks

– Following a Macdonell 7 yard catch, Burris throws the ball away under heavy pressure. Just like last week, facing 3rd and 3 and down 6 points with 2 min left in the game, HC Rick Campbell chooses to punt and crosses his fingers that his team will get the ball back

– The Redblacks defence shows why it’s the backbone of the team, bailing out their coach by forcing a quick two and out

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– With 1:15 left, on 1st down Burris overthrows Carter on a deep route. On 2nd down the pass is behind Macdonell. With the game on the line and needing 10 yards to keep the drive alive, NOT A SINGLE RECEIVER RUNS PAST THE FIRST DOWN MARKER, so Burris checks down and Macdonell makes a 7 yard catch but can’t get any more.

– Alouettes take over and run out the clock

Final score: 23-17

Key stats:

Burris went 12 of 21 for 110 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

O’Brien went  3 of 5 for 111 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Williams ran 8 times for 50 yards

Macdonell hauled in 8 passes for 73 yards and 1 TD

Simmons made 8 tackles

Maher punted 4 times for 173 yards, averaging 43 yards per kick

Closing thoughts:

It was never really about the game to be honest, in the first major gathering since Wednesday’s tragic events, the football was always going to be secondary. The focus tonight was on Ottawa’s response to tragedy and it rose to the occasion. The Redblacks went out of their way to honour this week’s fallen soldiers and R-Nation did an incredible job singing O Canada for the entire country.

After a dazzling opening drive that made it look easy, the Redblacks failed to move the ball with any kind of consistency as flags and sacks killed numerous drives. Burris started out hot and finally threw a touchdown at home but quickly cooled off with overthrows and drops leading to two and outs. Danny O’Brien got a fair number of reps and after his first pass was picked off he responded in style, covering 102 yards in 2 plays for Ottawa’s second touchdown. Unfortunately Campbell’s flip-flopping between QBs seemed to not only hinder the offence, but also didn’t ride the hot hand as O’Brien was responsible for all the late positive momentum but was on the sidelines for Ottawa’s final two drives. The run game took a big hit when Williams was lost to injury though Finch continued to shine when called upon. No receiver made more than three catches or really stood out other than Scott Macdonell who looks and plays like he belongs. The offensive line had a tough game, failing to provide a clean pocket for the majority of the night and giving up four sacks. Perhaps the most frustrating play of the game was on 3rd and 10 with 45 seconds left. Mike Gibson dialled up a brilliant play that culminated with no receivers running past the first down marker. Kind of a fitting reflection of the Redblacks offensive performance this year. Equally infuriating was the decision to run the ball three straight times to end the first half when we only needed about twenty yards into field goal range.

Defensively the Redblacks more than punched above their weight, repeatedly bailing out an offence that put them in tough positions with five turnovers. Though it didn’t result in many sacks, heavy pressure forced Crompton to rush a number of throws and led to incompletions. Simmons and Pruneau led the a swarming defence with eight and seven tackles respectively. The defence seemed to provide the late spark needed to turn the tide in Ottawa’s favour with a forced fumble, but a blotched review took away the turnover and all the momentum the Redblacks had built up.

Special teams were good as Ottawa clearly won the field position battle. Maher was solid punting, showing off his ability to pin teams deep with accurate corner punts and a perfectly executed fake punt led to a huge first down and a 38 yard gain, and later a field goal. Finch looked dangerous every time he fielded a punt though he always seemed to be one block away from a huge return. Once again the referees were a major factor with more than a few scratching decisions. Both teams were flagged a number of times as a result of sloppy and undisciplined play and what turned out to be a pivotal play in the game was decided by a mind boggling call on a review. Twice Ottawa had reviews go against them, first when a pass interference call lead to Montreal’s first touchdown and second when the refs somehow found enough evidence to overturn a clear fumble, which was the call on the field. There’s no way around the fact that the zebras were a deciding factor in the game tonight, throwing 27 flags for 253 yards, with 14 of those going against Ottawa for 143 yards.

Rick Campbell made a few decisions that will be second guessed, such as his attempt to challenge a challenge, asking for a review of the review and again choosing to punt the ball away when down by a single score with two minutes left in the game. The incredible number of after the whistle penalties reflect poorly on him as it shows a lack of discipline. It’s obvious that certain guys are still buying in and giving their all, but some guys are playing for themselves and stupid, selfish, bonehead plays show that.

Next up for the Redblacks is the final home game of the year on Halloween night against the Hamilton Ticats. Ottawa will be playing for pride and looking to entertain a hopefully 9th straight sell out crowd. Make sure you come out and cheer loudly because it’s your last chance to show the team some love and to put an exclamation mark on our inaugural season.

@RedBlackGade

– All images via CFL.ca and ottawaredblacks.com

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#TBT: An Interview with Mike Abou-Mechrek

By: Santino Filoso

Mike Abou-Mechrek Ottawa Renegades. Photo F. Scott Grant

Today we sit down with former Ottawa Renegades offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek. Drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999 and quickly going on to establish himself as a reliable starter throughout his 10 year career, Mike played in Ottawa from 2002-2004 before winning a Grey Cup with Saskatchewan in 2007.

RR: You played for the Renegades from 2002-2004, what are some of your favourite memories of that time?

MBM: Ask any of the players, coaches, GMs, or front office staff, anybody at all who was a part of that Renegade family, and they’ll tell you that their favourite memory of Ottawa was the people. We came together as a family like no other team that I was on in my 20 years playing the game. I’m still good friends with some of those guys and even our children are best friends . We forged a bond that couldn’t have been built anywhere except on an expansion team in a foreign city, lead by Coach Pao Pao, Kani Kuahi and their beautiful wives Dottie and Gay who brought all of us “Renegades” together.

Why did you choose to sign in Ottawa as a free agent?

Playing with Winnipeg was great and I had just finished my 3rd season in the CFL and 2nd as a starter, but I felt that being on an expansion team would give me more job security so that I could grow and get better as a football player. That, combined with the fact that I’m from Toronto and wanted to be closer to home without being too close, made it an easy choice. Ottawa is a beautiful city that I may still retire in and live there again one day.

What kind of challenges does an expansion team face that a normal team wouldn’t?

Football is the ultimate team sport and expansion teams are just a bunch of “Renegades” thrown together on a roster – they aren’t a team. The X’s and O’s are the same as everyone else but the guys don’t know each other yet.

Many people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?

I went back to Winnipeg in 2005 so I didn’t see the entire circus but I will say that the first act was enough for me.

Who was the toughest defensive player you were lined up against?

I’d say there were three: Joe Fleming, Johnny Scott and Cameron Wake

Did you have a favourite (or least favourite) stadium to play in?

Yeah, the Rogers Centre. I’ve won a high school city championship, a Vanier Cup, and a Grey Cup in the it, plus it’s in my home town, so you’d think I’d love the place but I don’t. It feels like you are playing in someone’s back yard: no fans, no atmosphere, no passion.

What was your typical pre-game meal?

Half a chicken with two cups of pasta and a big salad….which I would throw up before every game.

Run blocking > pass blocking?

Of course, you shouldn’t even need to ask

Mike Abou-Mechrek Ottawa Renegades. Photo F. Scott Grant

Describe your perfect day off while living in Ottawa.

Bike ride from Barrhaven down to the Byward Market, stopping at the Canal Ritz for a rest and refreshment. That’s the best drive/ride there is in Ottawa in my opinion.

Once I was feeling refreshed I’d continue down to the market , maybe hit up a used book store, eat some delicious Lebanese cuisine and find another patio. Later on someone would have to come pick me up and take me home because all that bike riding and refreshing makes one tired.

Who was the funniest guy you ever played with?

Marc Parenteau

Is the a special reason why you wore #67?

Many reasons. First off it’s the last year the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Cup. Secondly it’s slimming; the 6 gives the number the girth that a big man like me needs but the 7 brings the eyes in to the waist line, the number really accentuates my V shaped body haha. The worst and final reason is that it’s two away from 69 (me and you baby).

Now that you’ve retired, what are you doing for work?

I’m a Certified Financial Planner, which is what I originally wanted to be when I grew up, football just got in the way. In fact, I started my career in finance while playing in Ottawa, I was sure they would cut me and wanted to be ready to move on once they did. Thankfully I’ve never been cut.

Every player has a nickname or two, what was yours?

Abou

Do you still keep in touch with any former teammates, and if so, who?

Alex Gauthier, Marc Parenteau, George Hudson and Val St’Germain are some of my best friends, our wives all get along and our kids are the same age. It was such a blessing to come to Ottawa and meet such good people. I also keep in touch with Greg Bearman too, but he doesn’t have a wife and kids. I chat with Gay Kuahi on Facebook at least once a week.

What piece of advice would you offer any high school or university lineman looking to go pro?

Don’t look to go pro, just work hard at whatever you are going to do, or else it isn’t worth doing. If you focus on something you love to do the “pros” will find you. I was quite a fat, shy kid with low self esteem and football gave me a vehicle where my size finally was an advantage – as I WAS athletic. All the faster smaller kids who used to call me names and then run away in the school yard had nowhere to run to on the gridiron.

O-line coaches in junior ball have their work cut out for them because quite simply the kids aren’t strong enough to do things ‘right’. Trusting a coach is the best thing any athlete can do, especially when you are learning to play o-line. Everyone knows what the QB or RB has to do but no one knows what the O-line does or why they do it until they play the position. It’s quite humbling learning a game you thought you knew all over again.

For those looking to get better at football, or anything else: trust your coach/mentor, come up with a plan, and then do what you said you were going to do. The single best piece of advice I ever got (and it didn’t pertain to football at the time) was SHUT UP AND WORK.

Thank you very much Mike for a hell of an interview! Take care and we hope to see you in Ottawa again soon!

@RedBlackGade

Stampeders School Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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On the heels of last week’s embarrassing loss, the Redblacks rolled into Calgary for what was a semi sort of “homecoming” for a number of players and coaches, including Jon Gott (#63), J’Michael Deane (#64), Eric Fraser (#7), Justin Phillips (#44), Chris McCoy (#96), Henry Burris (#1), Don Yanowsky (STC), Mike Gibson (OC) and Rick Campbell (HC). Unfortunately for R-Nation and the former Stampeders, the Redblacks left McMahon Stadium without the win, dropping their record to 1-5.

Pre-Game:

– Confused people watching the CFL for the first time tune in to see the Redblacks decked out in their dazzling black and white road uniforms while Calgary sports their home red and black threads

– The CFL’s official twitter account does everything it can to ensure Ottawa fans are feeling optimistic

– The Redblacks finally win a coin loss, their first correct guess of the season

1st Quarter:

– D.J. Harper (#28) rumbles 21 yards after fielding the opening kickoff to the Redblacks 34 yard line

– Ottawa’s achilles’ heel rears it’s ugly head as poor special teams coverage and tackling results in Jock Sanders returning Brett Maher’s 58 yard punt 52 yards

– Facing 3rd and 2 on the Redblacks 8 yard line, Campbell gets Campbelled as Calgary dials up a fake FG and Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell breaks Antoine Pruneau’s (#6) arm tackle for the 8 yard rushing TD

– Following a short catch by Henry² (Marcus Henry #16), the Redblacks punt

– Burris runs a limousine past the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball and gets flagged for an illegal forward pass

– Jermaine Robinson (#32) makes the coaches wonder why they didn’t play him sooner as he flies around the field, throwing thundering hits on back to back plays

robinson
Here comes the boom!

2nd Quarter:

– The pocket collapses before any receiver creates separation and Burris gets sacked

burris
“Why can’t we just be on the same page?!”

– Scrambling under heavy pressure, Mitchell’s throwaway is nearly picked off by Robinson

– Two plays later Mitchell makes no mistake as he hits Jeff Fuller for a 17 yard TD

– Redblacks respond with a promising 7 play drive featuring runs by Burris and Chevon Walker (#29) and catches by Carlton Mitchell (#88) and Henry² but the drive comes to an abrupt end when Burris is picked off

– Stamps make the most of Burris’ gift when Marquay McDaniel catches a 22 yard TD, 21-0 for the horsemen

sholo
Keith Shologan (#74) blows up Mitchell on the play, making him pay the price for his TD throw

– Dobson Collins (#80) makes a short catch before Henry² doesn’t, forcing the Redblacks to punt

– Jasper Simmons (#31) intercepts Mitchell and returns it 29 yards before being tackled

– Walker punches the ball in from the 1, finally putting the Redblacks on the board

– Anthony Parker takes the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to Ottawa’s 51 yard line

– Mitchell strings together a few passes and puts a dagger in the Redblack’s chances of a comeback with a late 1st half TD to Jabari Arthur; 28-7 for the team wearing (but not named) red and black

3rd Quarter:

– Pruneau and Simmons continue to tackle everything in sight

pruneau

– Wallace Miles (#84) and Matt Carter (#85) make catches of 19 and 5 yards respectively

– Burris throws his 2nd interception of the game but makes the tackle so I guess he atones? #effort

– The defense limits the damage to a 12 yard Rene Paredes FG

– Burris shows off his arm strength and caps off an 8 play, 75 yard drive with a 32 yard TD pass to a streaking Miles

cancan
Can can can you do the can can?

– Eddie Elder (#5) picks off Mitchell but the refs unexplainably flag Robinson for pass interference, negating the potentially momentum tipping interception

– It’s small consolation but Justin Capicciotti (#93) gets a sack

– Rob Maver punts 53 yards for a rouge

4th Quarter:

– Maher caps off a 4 play, 64 yard drive with a 32 yard FG

– The Stamps chew up nearly 5 min of clock and tack on a 40 yard FG

– Walker trips up Burris, giving Charleston Hughes the easiest sack of his career

– Thomas DeMarco’s (#17) 3rd down pass falls incomplete, turning the ball over on downs

– Stamps extend their lead by three with another field goal

– Carter gets behind the Stampeder defence and makes a 60 yard catch, getting tackled at Calgary’s 3 yard line

carter

– The Redblacks proceed to shoot themselves in the foot when Collins is flagged for asking for a flag, Gott is flagged for a false start and Scott MacDonell (#83) catches a TD pass but is flagged for being offside

– On 3rd down Burris overthrows Miles on a corner route

Final Score: 38-17 for the Calgary Hitmen

Key Stats:

Henry Burris went 20-of-29 for 281 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

Chevon Walker had 8 carries for 22 yards and 1 TD

Wallace Miles had 5 catches for 102 yards and 1 TD

Jasper Simmons had 9 tackles and 1 INT

Closing Thoughts:

 The Redblacks were always going to be in tough against what is probably the best team in the CFL. Though they gave up more points than last week’s loss, I think the team has more positives to take away from this week’s film review. This loss isn’t a reflection on the Redblacks’ effort, as it’s evident from watching that the players are giving their all, but instead highlights a lack of execution by certain players at key moments. Just by reading his stat line you can assume Burris had a decent game, but it’s a bit misleading as he struggled in the first half, only picking up 58 yards. Promising drives were killed by timely drops and flags but Wallace Miles continued to build off his strong performance last week and seems to be creating chemistry with Burris. Aside from his 1 yard TD, Chevon Walker was a complete non factor, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. You’ve gotta wonder how much of that is on the offensive line, who also struggled with keeping Burris upright, forcing him to rush throws and scramble more often than you’d like to see a 39 year old QB run.

Defensively the Redblacks had some stand out performances; Jasper Simmons played like a man possessed, maybe being a new Dad has given him a bit of extra motivation. 1st round pick Antoine Pruneau rewarded the coach’s decision to start him with 8 tackles and was constantly around the ball. But the real revelation of the night was the play of Jermaine Robinson, who laid the lumber on a few guys and nearly picked off a couple of passes, it’s safe to say he’ll be starting next week.

It was another sloppy game for the special team’s coverage, as they gave up a 52 yard punt return along with 45 yard kickoff return. The Redblacks can talk about not being an expansion team all they want, but the fact of the matter is that good teams have good coverage, and this issue has plagued them since their 1st pre-season game. Penalties were another headache as once again the Redblacks gave up over 100 yards in flags, drawing 12 flags for 131 yards. Maher rebounded from last week’s nightmarish outing by going 1/1 on FGs and averaging nearly 49 yards a punt.

Though the Redblacks lost once again, they continue to remain the playoff hunt simply due to the fact that everyone else in the East is also struggling. If they can get a win next week at home against an Eskimo team that hasn’t yet experienced the ferocity of R-Nation in person, it would set them up nicely for the 2nd half of the season when nearly every game is against an Eastern team. Remember to be LOUD and PROUD at Lansdowne on Friday!

@RedBlackGade

Game #4; LeFevour Reams Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

Ottawa Redblacks v Hamilton Tiger-Cats

On Saturday night, in front of a small but rambunctious crowd at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium, and playing a winless Ticats team without their starting QB, the Redblacks wasted a golden opportunity to even their record at .500.

Pre-Game:

– It was Henry Burris’ 190th CFL start and his first against the Ticats since being released in the off-season after leading them to the Grey Cup, other ex-Ticats looking to have a big game included RB Chevon Walker (#29) and WR Matt Carter (#85)

1st Quarter:

– Brett Maher (#3) kicks off for the Redblacks and 1st round pick Antoine Pruneau (#6) quickly makes the tackle

– The Ticats come out roaring and after a 23 yard pass, QB Dan LeFevour flips a reverse to WR Brandon Banks who tiptoes 53 yards down the sideline for a TD, 7-0 for the McMaster Marauders

High stepping his way to a TD
High stepping his way to a TD

– Burris rumbles 20 yards on the Redblacks first play from scrimmage as the Redblacks answer the quick score with a long 14 play drive that features runs by Walker and DJ Harper (#28), and catches by Kierrie Johnson (#10), John Delahunt (#49), Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) and a 10 yard TD catch from a diving Matt Carter (#85)

Matt Carter, Craig Butler

– Dan “Spider Legs” LeFevour gallops up the middle of the field for an easy 34 yard gain before CJ Gable rushes 47 yards into the end zone, restoring the Ticats 7 point lead

Lerunning
LeRunning

– Justin “Captain” Phillips gets his leg rolled up on during the ensuing kick return and breaks his fibula, all of Ottawa (specifically Arnprior) weeps, even though the man himself doesn’t

phillips

2nd Quarter:

– Burris connects with Henry² for a 19 yard TD

h2td

– DB Jovon Johnson (#2) proves that the Redblacks defense isn’t entirely allergic to tackling and sacks LeFevour

jjsack

– Maher fakes the punt and hits FB Patrick Lavoie for a 25 yard completion on 3rd and 10, making it three straight games that the Redblacks have faked a punt

– Despite back to back catches by Walker, the Redblacks drive stalls at the Ticat 3 yard line, so they settle for a 10 yard Maher FG

– LeFevour and Gable continue to run wild through sloppy Redblacks tackles and the Justin Medlock splits the uprights from 12 yards out to tie the game at 17

LeRunning Part 2: LeForce
LeRunning Part 2: LeForce

– Henry² continues his night of dominance and makes another first down catch

– Burris’ streak of 144 passes without an interception ends when his deep pass intended for Dobson Collins (#80) is picked off; it was slightly underthrown but Collins make zero effort to battle back for position on the ball

– Using both his arms and legs, LeFevour moves the Ticats into position for a field goal as the half expires, ending the half with a 20-17 lead courtesy of a 36 yard Medlock FG

3rd Quarter:

– Redblacks receive the ball to start the half but quickly go two and out

– Wallace Miles (#84) makes his first catch as a Redblack, picking up 17 yards and putting the Redblacks in field goal range

– Maher’s 38 yard FG attempt is good

– Dan “Houdini” LeFevour avoids getting sacked in a collapsing pocket and strolls around until he spots a wide open Cary Koch 49 yards down field

– Ticats take the lead off an 18 yard Medlock field goal

– Redblacks go two and out and Maher booms a 50 yard punt to the Hamilton 22

– On a 28 yard LeFevour scramble, Ticats WR Andy Fantuz ear holes Brandyn Thompson (#25), knocking him into early next week

– Eric Fraser (#7) fails to get to LeFevour on the safety blitz, stop me if you’ve heard this one before….

– Jovon Johnson makes an incredible individual effort and rips the ball out of Koch’s hands to pick off LeFevour, unfortunately the Redblacks offense chooses to look a gift horse in the mouth

– Kierrie Johnson is seen on the sidelines icing his forearm

4th Quarter:

– Henry² x3 for gains of 27, 17 and 14 yards respectively

– Following a Burris sack, Maher boots a 24 yard FG to tie the game up at 23

– Gable cuts Redblacks defense like Big Joe splits watermelons and bursts 82 yards until he is horse collar tackled by DB Jerrell Gavins (#24)

C.J. Gable
You’re gonna have a bad time when your entire defense tails the running back

– Dan “The Specialist” LeFevour sneaks the ball in from 1 yard out to put the Ticats up 30-23 with 5:04 left in the game

Dan LeFevour

– The Redblacks drive bogs down at midfield and on 3rd and 2 Head Coach Rick Campbell decides to gamble and go for it with 2:31 remaining; Burris’ pass is tipped at the line and despite getting a hand on it Paris Jackson (#19) fails to make the catch

– LeFevour uses LeLegs to move the Ticats into range for another FG

Final Score: 33-23 for LeTicats

Key Stats:

Burris went 27 of 44 for 290 yards (2 TDs & 1 INT)

Walker had 8 carries for 37 yards

Henry² made 10 catches for 137 yards (1 TD)

Jerrell Gavins made 6 tackles

Closing Thoughts:

In a game where the Redblacks offense finally came to life, the defense that had been so stout the past few weeks came apart at the seams as Dan LeFevour stole the show with 470 yards of total offense (361 passing yards and 109 rushing yards). The Redblacks offense ran through Henry² on a night when Walker and the run game was shut down. Every catch Henry² made went for a first down but the Redblacks receivers as a group still need to do more as they left several plays out on the field due to drops. The defense was plagued with poor tackling and stubborn coaching decisions, ex: Continuing to blitz the safety even after repeating being burned on screens and dump offs. If the Redblacks are going to win games they simply cannot have their defense giving up 7 plays of 20+ yards per game. Adding insult to injury is the loss of Special Teams Captain Justin Phillips, who will miss significant time as he recovers from a broken fibula; WR Kierrie Johnson also left the game with an injury though the severity as of right now is still unknown. Some will point the finger to Coach Campbell’s decision to go for it on 3rd and 2 with two minutes remaining but personally I like the decision and agree with his logic.

“We had the ball at midfield, we were down by seven,” said Campbell. “I thought it was a good opportunity to stay on the field. It didn’t work out. We’re preaching to our players that we’re playing to win the game.”

Losing to an Eastern opponent stings, especially one without that was previously winless and without their starting QB but the Redblacks don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves with the Fake Riders coming to town next week. Maybe a little bit of love from R-Nation and a change of uniform is all they need to get back on track, after all, we’ve undefeated when we wear black.

@RedBlackGade

P.S. Cool to see the Redblacks twitter using the Henry² nickname, but don’t forget that you read it here first, way back in the pre-season!

-All images via CFL.ca, the Ottawa Sun and the Ottawa Citizen

Game #3; TD Place Comes to Life as the Redblacks Edge the Argos

By: Santino Filoso

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On Friday night, after 3177 days (but who’s counting), CFL football returned to Ottawa with a roar. R-Nation unleashed nine years of pent up energy as the Redblacks survived a tight 18-17 defensive battle to get their 1st win of the season and 1st win at home in dramatic fashion.

Pre-Game:

– Ottawa was buzzing all week but the vibe around the city really started to peak Friday morning with the CFL, City Hall, Senators, former players and even bus drivers getting in on the action

– Fans arrive at TD Place via bus, boat, bike and car with varying degrees of traffic

– The Trews serenade “tailgating” Redblacks fans hanging out beside the Aberdeen Pavilion

– Legendary Rough Rider Tony Gabriel runs around the field to amp up the crowd

From the way he ran around on the field, Tony looks like he could still lace them up and play
It was awesome to see Gabriel back on a CFL field

– PA announcer Mike Sutherland introduces the Redblacks but nobody feels the need to tell the players milling about inside the helmet to come out, leading to an awkward few minutes of expectation, like that feeling you get when you go to hug someone and they turn their head to the same side

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Eventually the defense came out but the offense was missing until late in the game

 

– A military jet flys over the stadium twice, because doing it just once is how the Argos score TDs

1st Quarter:

– Argos receiving the opening kick off and proceed to march down the field with a variety of short passes. DB Jerell Gavins (#24) makes a great defensive play to break up an end zone pass intended for Argos WR John Childs.

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– The first points in TD Place history come off the right foot of Swayze “Point Blank” Waters as he nails a 36 yard FG

– Aided by a roughing the passer flag and a few strong runs from Chevon Walker (#29), the Redblacks get into field goal range and kicker Brett Maher hits a 26 yard FG

– WR Kierrie Johnson (#10) gets behind the Argos secondary, Burris spots him and delivers a perfect deep ball that hits him in the hands, unfortunately the pass is dropped and the Redblacks miss out on a sure touchdown

– Redblacks are forced to punt following a Burris sack

– Argos RB Steve Slaton rumbles for 14 yards to end the quarter, TD Place announcer calls him Steve Sultan for the first but definitely not last time of the evening

2nd Quarter:

– Swayze “Road House” Waters punts 65 yards for a rouge

– Carlton Mitchell (#88) goes over the middle and gets absolutely blasted by Dwight Anderson who is flagged for unnecessary roughness. The hit looks clean in the sense that Anderson never makes contact with Mitchell’s head but the zebra man has spoken, +15 yards to the Redblacks

– Brett “I Can Do It All” Maher fakes the punt on 3rd and 10, scrambling 15 yards for a 1st down

– Long catches by Johnson and Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) bring the Redblacks to the Argos 23; Maher makes a 30 yard FG

– Ray completes a 45 yard pass but is sacked on the next play by new Dad (make sure you say congrats!) Justin Capicciotti (#93)

– Swayze “Dirty Dancing” Waters makes a 40 yard FG

– The Redblacks offensive line plays dodgeball with the Argos’ defensive one which results in Burris getting sacked

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– With 2:38 left the Redblacks string together a series of 1st downs thanks to runs by Burris and Walker and catches by Henry² and Johnson

– Maher’s 22 yard FG closes out the half and gives the Redblacks a half-time lead for the third consecutive game

Half-time:

– The Redblacks pay tribute to their past by retiring and honouring former Rough Rider greats Tony Golab, Jim Coode, Bobby Simpson, Gerry Organ, Whit Tucker, Moe “The Toe” Racine, Ronnie Stewart and Russ Jackson. It was a special moment for the guys who were on hand and for the families represnting those who coudn’t be.

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The Redblacks’ retired numbers reflect Ottawa’s storied CFL history

3rd Quarter:

– Redblacks receive the ball to start the 2nd half but quickly go two and out following another Burris sack

– Jovon Johnson (#2) recovers a fumble giving the Redblacks the ball, unfortunately they can’t get any points off the turnover

– Tristan Okpalaugo gets a hat-trick of sacks on Burris, getting to him for the 3rd time

– Brandyn Thompson (#25) picks off Ricky Ray

– Burris hits Dobson Collins (#80) on back to back plays for gains of 15 and 16 yards

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– Following a Matt Carter (#85) catch, Maher makes another FG, this time from 32 yards out

– T.J. Hill (#21) blows by the Argos offensive line to sack Ray

4th Quarter:

– Ray throws a 20 yard pass to Darvin Adams, hitting him in stride in the back of the end zone

– Walker sweeps through the Argos defense, weaving 28 yards between would be tacklers

– Thomas DeMarco (#17) punts 20 yards (yes you read that right) when the drive stalls at the Argos 51

– Brandon Lang (#91) bull rushes his way to Ray, sacking him for a 7 yard loss

– Maher makes a 48 yard FG with 5:08 left in the game giving the Redblacks a slim 15-14 lead

– Swayze “Red Dawn” Waters makes a 47 yard FG with 1:33 left in the game giving the Argos a slim 17-15 lead

– After scrambling for a short gain, Burris hits Johnson for a 43 yard completion on 2nd and 10, moving the ball all the way down to the Argos 21 yard line, also known as field goal range

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Kierrie Johnson moves the Redblacks into field goal range and atones for his drop earlier in the game

– Maher is money from 23 yards out, giving the Redblacks a 18-17 lead with 28 seconds left in the game

– Jasper Simmons (#31) seals the deal by picking off a visibly frustrated Ray to end the game

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– Eardrums rupture from the frenzied wall of noise being produced by R-Nation, REDBLACKS WIN, REDBLACKS WIN, REDBLACKS WIN!

 Final score: 18-17 for the Redblacks

Key Stats: 

– Burris went 17 of 30 for 216 yards, 0 TDs or INTs

– Walker had 12 carries for 60 yards

– Johnson had 6 catches for 91 yards

– Maher went 6/6 and averaged over 50 yards a punt

– 5 sacks for the Redblacks defense

Closing Thoughts:

On a historic night in Ottawa, the Redblacks won in dramatic fashion, sending the sellout crowd home happy and breaking in TD Place the right way. There were some bumps along the way, but in the end a win’s a win and this one was a long time coming. Offensively the Redblacks woes continued; Burris was under heavy pressure all night and it’s unrealistic to expect him to thrive and be accurate when he’s constantly throwing off his back foot, the offensive line must be better. Additionally receivers continue to have drops in key moments and struggle to create separation. It was good to see Kierrie Johnson redeem himself with the late catch.

“God gave me another opportunity,” said Johnson. “I messed up on the first one, I was wide open. I think everybody and their  momma saw that one.So my teammates told me I was going to have another opportunity. I kept faith. I saw that ball coming to me, and I said I’ve got to make that play, no matter what. It wasn’t an easy catch. I saw the ball, I knew I had to catch it.. I don’t care what’s the situation, I had to catch it.”

Running back Chevon Walker continues to be a home run threat and seemingly every time the ball is in his hands he has a chance to take it to the house. One area that the offensive isn’t struggling in is with turnovers. as the Redblacks have done a marvelous job protecting the football so far this season.

Defensively the Redblacks continued their trend of bending but not breaking. They piled up another 5 sacks and harassed Ray all night long, generating two interceptions and a fumble. Players swarmed to the ball and made good strong tackles. Specials team coverage tightened up and prevented the Argos getting any long gains.

Without a doubt the player of the game was kicker Brett Maher, who was perfect kicking and who thumped punts deep into Argos territory throughout the game.

“It’s a great night,” said Maher. “If you’re a kicker and you don’t want to be in that situation, you’re probably not going to thrive. My whole career, I’ve kicked a bunch of field goals and never hit a game-winner, never even tried one.” 

 

The Big Three tonight
The Big Three tonight

The Redblacks next game will be on Saturday night in Hamilton where they’ll look to build off this win before returning back to TD Place to host Saskatchewan on August 2nd. See you at the game!

@RedBlackGade

– Images via CFL.ca, Roman Romanovich, Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun

#TBT: Interview with Jerome Haywood

By: Santino Filoso

For today’s Throwback Thursday interview we sit down with former Ottawa Renegade defensive lineman Jerome Haywood. A stalwart at San Diego state, Haywood started 46 consecutive games before being signed by the Renegades in 2002 as an undrafted free agent. During his time in Ottawa Haywood was a ferocious run stuffer at nose tackle where he consistently faced double and even triple teams despite standing only 5’8″.

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RR: As a Californian coming up to Ottawa, what was your first impression of the city?
JH: Besides the airport, the first place in Ottawa that I saw was Kemptville where we had training camp. I definitely started having second thoughts about playing in Canada when I saw the small airport and then Kemptville . I thought Ottawa was like Kemptville for about a week and a half until we had a day off during training camp and I finally got a chance to go into the city.
You played for the Renegades from 2002-2006, what are some of your favorite memories of that time?
I remember the epic Canada Day game in 2005  as it was a good time from start to finish. I loved our red jerseys. Training camp in 2005 was great as well because we had such a great coaching staff that year.  To be honest I loved every minute while I was in Ottawa. I remember hanging out at the deli across the street from the stadium with players and coaches, just bonding and having a great time.
Looking at your CFL stats I noticed that you had 3 rushing attempts for the Renegades in 2004, were those goal-line carries?
One goal line carry and two middle of the field carries. I played fullback on our goal line package and I loved it. I’m not one for the spot light, I just like to kick ass. Making holes for the running back was awesome. The time I got the ball on the goal line sucked because I didn’t punch it in.
A lot of people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?
I wouldn’t blame it all on ownership and I’m sure that they wouldn’t blame the players and coaches. In my personal opinion I think our lack of success was with the players.  We played in plenty of games that we were right in it until the end but found a way to smoke it off. I don’t believe that as a whole we had the mental toughness that you need to be successful. In our last year we were headed in that direction with a solid group of guys but then the team folded. Unfortunately winning doesn’t happen overnight and you have to have a strong foundation to be good. Coach Etch (Gary Etcheverry) always said “It is what it is.”
When the Renegades folded in 2006, did you have any idea where you would end up and what was the general mood of the players upon learning that Ottawa would be disbanded?
I had no clue where I was going but I knew that I would be picked up by someone. That time really sucked  because a lot of good players lost jobs. I couldn’t believe that a team would fold after just 4 years, especially one in the Nation’s Capital. I’m happy that football is finally back in Ottawa!
You have 31 career sacks, is there one that was more satisfying than the others?
I don’t remember the exact one but the sacks that I will always cherish are the sacks against Anthony Calvillo. I can say that I hit that man maybe 6-9 times a game but I have sacked him maybe 6-8 times in my career.  He was definitely a hard one to sack because he would get rid of the ball right as he was being hit and he would get back up and do it again. But I would say that all of my sacks against him stand out.
Who was the biggest trash talker you ever played against?
I don’t remember one person that I actually played against but Adriano Belli was always talking to the teams that I played with. For me it was fun because I always played harder when I would hear him running his mouth. My first 2 years in the league I talked a lot of trash but only having 9 teams in the league it was kind of hard to keep talking because you end up seeing other  players on the field, or out at the bar after the game, and sometimes even on your team the following week.
Did you have any pre-game superstitions?
I wasn’t too bad with my superstitions. I would always have a bag of peanut M&M’s the night before the game. I would also take an Epsom salt bath the night before as well. I always wore the same clothes under my jersey for the year. My warm-up for the game was something that I’d done since college. I would jog around the field before the game and spend my time stretching and sizing up whose ass I was going to kick.
What was the hardest hit you ever made on someone?
John Avery got a good hit from me but I really didn’t do much. We were playing Toronto and it was a run play. I was holding my gap and I saw the hand off to Avery so I waited for him to commit to a gap. He decided to run to the gap right next to me because for some reason it was open. Once I saw him commit I spun from my gap to the gap that he was running to and when I came out of my spin he was running full speed and ran into me. He bounced off to me to the turf and landed on his back. His exact words to me were “Damn Haywood I’ve never been hit that hard.” It was a big collision and I felt it but I’m happy that I was the hammer and not the nail.
Describe your perfect off day while living in Ottawa.
My perfect day was simple. I wanted to be in apartment with my wife (girlfriend at the time) relaxing after I worked out and sat in the cold tub at the facility. I’m a laid back kind of guy.
Throughout your CFL career you played for Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton, what was the toughest stadium to play at?
The toughest place for me to play was Saskatchewan. The fans love their Riders and I heard it all. I’ve never been called a fat ass until I was there, good times!
Now that you´ve been out of the league for a few years, what are you doing for work?
Right now I’m a PE Teacher/Athletic Director at a school for at-risk youth. I’m also working on becoming a personal trainer. I love the game of football and now its about time for me to start working my way back in it somehow, maybe as a strength coach or something like that.
Do you still keep in touch with a lot of your former teammates? If so, who?
I do! Derrick Ford is a close friend of mine as well as Tony White and Kai Ellis. I still talk to Coach Pao Pao from time to time. Facebook keeps a lot of us connected.
Any plans to head back to Ottawa to catch a Redblacks game?
I sure do! I hope that it will be a lot sooner than later too. I have to deal with some immigration stuff and I will be up there so my wife can visit her family and I can see the new team. I might even ask for a job hahaha.
Every player has a nickname or two, what was yours?
I’ve had a few but the one that I go by is Rome, Romey, Romey Rome. I’ve also been called Tank and the Plug.
What was the best piece of football advice you ever received?
I don’t know the single best piece because I received a lot over the years. I can’t remember who told me but one that stuck with me was “Don’t be complacent because there is always someone better than you out there so you better work hard.” I think in 2005 I was complacent and I should have lost my job because I was out played by a rookie but I wasn’t let go because I was durable and the coaches knew what I could do. Trust me, that after that I told myself I would not let that happen again ever in my life.
Jerome Haywood Ottawa Renegades 2005. Photo F. Scott Grant
Thanks for your time Jerome, and a hell of an interview too! Best of luck in the future and we can’t wait to see you back visiting Ottawa!

TD Place scoreboard will be a sight to see

By: Santino Filoso

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It’s often said that the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. A while back I started wondering why we hadn’t heard anything yet about the new scoreboard for TD Place stadium at Lansdowne, so I tweeted at the Redblacks asking for some information. The Redblacks social media team has been lights-out so far and I wasn’t disappointed as my query was quickly answered.

Coming in at 60 feet by 40 feet means that R-Nation will have a glorious 2,400 square-foot screen overlooking the western end zone. Oh, and did I mention that it’s HD? Nothing like seeing the Redblacks run up the score in high-definition and watching the tears streak down opposing fans faces as they cower beneath the Redblack attack!

Comparing it to the old scoreboard that we had at Lansdowne during the Rough Rider/Renegade eras isn’t even fair. Kinda like:

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The big thing is the new scoreboard. The little blue thing is the old one.

For those of you who are more visual, our scoreboard will be exactly the same size as the one used by Georgia Tech at their stadium. Now I realize that in this picture their scoreboard doesn’t look incredibly imposing, but you have to remember that their stadium seats 55,000, more than double the capacity of TD Place.

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Having a quality scoreboard is something that really enhances the game-day experience. Nobody wants to be squinting to see a pixelated replay. Just ask Sens fans about the new scoreboard they got in 2011.

To sum up, TD Place’s scoreboard is going to be big, in HD and create even more excitement going into this inaugural Redblacks season. Yet another reason July 18th can’t get here soon enough!

@RedBlackGade

Hunt hints at possible Redblacks 3rd jersey in year one

A small piece of Redblacks news that may have slipped past most of us, what with the excitement around the sale of home opener ticket packs to the public and the “controversy” around the naming of the Redblacks mascot Big Joe Mufferaw, was OSEG President Jeff Hunt dropping a hint (or pretty much confirming?) a third jersey for the Redblacks in year one. In an interview with TSN 1200 (6-minute mark), Hunt indicates that home and away jerseys will be released in mid-May, likely followed by a third jersey release in the fall!

For a jersey/logo enthusiast (geek?) like myself, this was nearly as welcome as hearing the Redblacks, still over three months away from kick-off, are already pushing 13,000 season ticket holders. A third jersey in the inaugural season is a bit of a surprise, and a welcome one at that.

And now the big question: what might this jersey look like? A couple of things come to mind immediately. First off, a fall release of a third jersey in the CFL would most likely be centred around the team’s Labour Day Classic game. And what better occasion for a vintage jersey than a LDC game.

I’m thinking there might be some giddy former Rough Rider fans in Ottawa in September!

This move makes a lot of sense for the Redblacks. Releasing three jerseys at one time seems like overkill. And if the third jersey is indeed a vintage Rough Riders look, Hunt and OSEG will have once again proven that they get it. They understand this fan base and how important it is to link the new team with teams of the past.

DOES NEW GEAR HINT AT POSSIBLE JERSEY STYLE/STRIPING?

As part of the home opener ticket pack promotion, the Redblacks released an ad featuring QB Henry Burris sporting some gear we haven’t seen before. For those that haven’t seen it, here’s the ad:

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Specifically, the striping on the hat seems very reminiscent of Rough Riders uniforms gone by. Here’s a closer look at the hat:

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Notice the striping similarities with this jersey from the early 1970s (image courtesy Wikipedia):

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Kinda similar, anyway.

Probably reading too much into one hat, but it is fun to speculate.

Want more on Redblacks jersey concepts? Check out these past blog entries.

@OTTRoughRiders