MONTREAL — With a win on Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Montreal Alouettes could punch their ticket to the 2021 CFL playoffs — but the team is already looking further.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t a goal of ours to make the playoffs and especially doing it in front of the home crowd would be amazing,” said quarterback Matthew Shiltz. “At the same time, we have a lot of bigger goals too.”
“We want the first seed in the East, we want to keep on moving towards the end of the playoffs, get to the championship and win it.”
Shiltz started the last two games filling in for the injured Vernon Adams Jr., but skipped a practice day during the week to heal up from a knee injury. Recent acquisition Trevor Harris filled in during practice but the Alouettes (6-4) will not make a quarterback change ahead of Saturday’s game.
For Shiltz, this season has been a learning process. He welcomes the responsibility of starting a third straight game and improving Montreal’s winning streak to five games.
“After a few games, you just keep building confidence and you keep on becoming more comfortable back there,” he said. “I’m just learning as I go and I keep making plays and putting the team in the best position to make plays.”
Khari Jones is still locked in with his starter but is pleased with having Harris on the sidelines in the event Shiltz can't play.
“It was nice to have him in there in practice the third day, I felt like every day he got better with what we’re doing,” Jones said. “He’s a smart guy, he’s taken to the offence well. The guys have trust in him and so it won’t be everything, maybe, but it’ll be enough that we can go and win.”
Patrick Davis will be the fourth player lining up at centre for Montreal this season. The 28th overall pick in the 2021 CFL Draft out of Syracuse University will be making his first career start.
“That’s the great unknown but he’s made me more and more comfortable every day seeing him in there, seeing how he handles our guys and seeing all the calls,” Jones said. “It’s a tough position. It’s not just the blocking side of things, it’s figuring out what’s happening on defence and making the right calls and he’s handled it really well.”
The Roughriders (6-4) are not underestimating their opponent as they fly over to Montreal for Saturday’s game. For quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Alouettes are “hot right now” and will be a test to his team’s offensive line.
“I put on the last couple of games against Toronto and Ottawa and it was just like a highlight tape of killing the quarterback,” Fajardo said. “You never want to put that on and see that as a quarterback but we got our work cut out for us and I think it’ll be a great game and hopefully we give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter.”
Expecting rain on Saturday, Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said that they are prepared for a fight in tougher conditions.
“We did some wet ball stuff with our snapper, we dunked the ball in the water a little bit and let him snap with it,” Dickenson said. “The focus has to be sharp. Most of our players played a lot of football and they’ve all played in the rain at some point. We couldn’t simulate the rain so we did the next best thing.”
Saskatchewan fullback Alexandre Dupuis will have added emotion in his return to Percival Molson Stadium. The Montreal native signed with the Alouettes in June hoping to play for his hometown team but was released at the end of pre-season in August.
Dupuis visits Montreal for the first time since getting released. The 31 year-old who hadn’t played professional football for “over 1000 days” until he suited up for Saskatchewan on Aug. 21, said he’s happy to have landed in the Prairies.
“I’m really grateful for that opportunity and right now I’m just trying to get the most out of it and trying to show everybody that passed on me or released me that they were wrong,” Dupuis said. “It’s sad for them but it’s great for Saskatchewan that I can be here and play and be involved a lot in the offense and do as much as I can to help this team win football games.”
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (6-4) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (6-4)
Saturday, Percival Molson Stadium
ARTIS-PAYNE OUT: Alouettes running back Cameron Artis-Payne will miss a second straight game. The former Carolina Panther missed last week’s game for a non-COVID illness and will remain on the one-game injured list ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
STANBACK APPROACHING 1000: William Stanback is 120 yard away from reaching the 1000 rushing yards mark this season. The CFL leading rusher has recorded over 120 yards in three of his last four games.
RIDERS PUNTER CHANGE: Kaare Vedvik will replace the injured Jon Ryan at punter. Vedvik, a global player from Norway, featured on eight NFL team rosters before getting selected in the second round of the 2021 CFL Global Draft.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2021.
Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press