Canadian Football League

Friday, June 24, 2005

Alouettes open Canadian Football League season with another win

Nothing has defined the recent years of the Montreal Alouettes like their ability to start a season at full speed while the rest of the Canadian Football League's teams are still trying to find their way.
Last night, the Als made it nine opening-game wins in as many years as they overcame a slow start to defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-21 before their 55th consecutive sellout crowd at Percival Molson Stadium.
The Tiger-Cats, who had played their final preseason game only five days earlier, survived the first half by forcing the Als to play on a long field and by chipping away on offence with a mix of rushing and high-percentage passes.
But when the Als began adding to an 11-7 halftime lead during the second half, the Ticats couldn't answer back until it was too late.

The Als led 28-7 when Hamilton's Craig Yeast returned a punt 72 yards on the final play of the third quarter. When the Als added a field goal to make the score 31-14, their lead looked more than safe.
But a 75-yard interception for a touchdown by Hamilton corner Jason Goss with just under seven minutes remaining narrowed the lead to 10 points and gave the Cats life.
With less than three minutes to play, quarterback Danny McManus was picked off for the second time in the game, this time by Montreal linebacker Tim Strickland, and the Als breathed a sigh of relief.
With receivers Terry Vaughn and Kwame Cavil sitting out with injuries, the Montreal offence struggled early on as quarterback Anthony Calvillo tried to find his rhythm with the cast of Ben Cahoon, Dave Stala, Tim Gilligan and Kerry Watkins.
The Ticats put up most of the offence during the opening quarter, punting for a single point at the end of their opening drive, then adding a 35-yard Jamie Boreham field goal to make the score 4-0 Hamilton at the end of a quarter.
The Hamilton lead lasted until early in the second quarter, when the Als put together their first decent drive of the game. After advancing the ball via the legs of running back Eric Lapointe, Calvillo hit Cahoon and Watkins with consecutive passes, which moved the ball to the Hamilton three-yard line.
The completion to Cahoon was number 1,970 for Calvillo as an Alouette, moving him into first place ahead of Sam Etcheverry on Montreal's career completion list.
From there, running back Mike Vilimek, who had only five career carries and no touchdowns in three seasons with Ottawa, ran the ball in to make the score 7-4.
The Ticats tied the game on their next possession. McManus, who recently turned 40, hit D.J. Flick for a 33-yard pass down to the Montreal 12. Boreham came on for his second field goal to make it 7-7.
During that drive, McManus passed Ron Lancaster's 50,535 yards to move into second place behind Damon Allen on the CFL's career passing yardage list.
The Als marched the ball deep into Hamilton territory twice more during the first half but couldn't convert touchdowns on either. On the first, kicker Damon Duval missed from 21 yards out and Montreal had to settle for a single. Then, after a McManus interception with less than two minutes until halftime, the Als couldn't beat the clock and had to settle for a short field goal that made the score 11-7.
Duval's second field goal of the night, from 18 yards, gave Montreal a 14-7 lead midway through the third quarter before the roof began to cave in on the Ticats.
The Alouettes honoured CFL career rushing leader Mike Pringle before last night's game, allowing him to put on a uniform and run out of the tunnel one last time. Pringle, who played with Montreal from 1996 until 2002, retired this past off-season.


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