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Defence leads Montreal Alouettes to 25-18 win over Calgary Stampeders

MONTREAL — Just a few months into his CFL career, Kabion Ento is quickly finding out why the league is known for games coming down to the wire.
Calgary Stampeders' Reggie Begelton (84) is tackled by Montreal Alouettes' Wesley Sutton during first half CFL football action in Montreal, Sunday, July 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — Just a few months into his CFL career, Kabion Ento is quickly finding out why the league is known for games coming down to the wire.

The 27-year-old cornerback scored the only touchdown off an interception on Sunday as the Montreal Alouettes held off two late Calgary Stampeders red-zone possessions to win 25-18 at Molson Stadium.

“It’s a crazy league in the CFL,” said Ento. “I’ve been here a short amount of time, but the last three minutes is wild. We knew it was going to be on us (the defence).

“That’s when the game gets fun, when the game is on you and you’re with your brothers.”

The Alouettes emphasized the need to improve their pass rush coming out of a bye week — signing veteran defensive lineman and former Stampeder Shawn Lemon to help the cause — and backed it up.

Montreal’s defence limited Calgary quarterback Jake Maier to 256 yards on 24-of-44 passing and secured two interceptions. Maier, who was also sacked three times, was fortunate it wasn’t more as Montreal’s defence got its hands on a number of passes.

In the end, he couldn’t get the Stampeders in the end zone either.

“Very disappointed that we couldn’t score,” said Calgary coach Dave Dickinson, adding he wasn’t sure his receivers ran the right routes. “We are playing extremely hard, you wish the guys would get rewarded.

“I believe in Jake, I know he believes in himself and the guys believe in him.”

Under constant pressure early, Maier threw for just nine yards in the first quarter before throwing an interception early in the second to Ento, who ran the ball 53 yards to the end zone in front of 18,093 fans.

It’s a type of play Ento knew he was under pressure to make after he was beaten by his man in the final minute last time out against the Toronto Argonauts.

"He had a lot of pressure on him going into this game,” said Alouettes head coach Jason Maas. “And we talked to him and said 'hey, you've been put in a lot of positions to make plays and you haven't made one yet, so let's make a play — when it's there you gotta have confidence you can make it."

Montreal (3-3) snapped a three-game losing skid to move into second place in the East Division with the win, leapfrogging the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks.

Calgary slipped to 2-5 ahead of a difficult stretch in the CFL season. The Stampeders haven't had a losing season since 2007.

On offence, it was a battle of the kickers. David Cote went 6-for-7 on field goals and kicked a rouge. Calgary kicker Rene Paredes, who was playing in his 200th career game, was perfect at 6-for-6 to score all 18 Calgary points. 

The 12 combined field goals were one short of tying a CFL record.

Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo appeared to hurt his hand in the second quarter and also had trouble producing with 158 passing yards on 16-of-29 completions as Montreal failed to add to a league-low eight offensive touchdowns.

The Alouettes did, however, do a better job protecting Fajardo, who was only sacked once, bringing the total from 26 to 27 this season.

And although the Alouettes didn’t get in the end zone, Maas was encouraged by the number of times his team got in position to score.

"To be disappointed on six or seven scoring opportunities in this league, I don't know if that's the correct way of looking at it,” he said. “We do need to get better, absolutely. … It just comes down to execution at times and better play calling on my part at times.”

Montreal running back William Stanback had his best showing of the season, producing 86 yards on 15 carries. Calgary’s Reggie Begelton led all players with 102 receiving yards.

After Ento’s interception, Calgary had an opportunity to score a touchdown on its ensuing possession, but Montreal’s defence continued giving Maier trouble, sacking him on second and five to force a 32-yard field goal from Paredes to make it 13-6 Montreal.

Montreal and Calgary traded field goals to end the half. The break went an extra 40 minutes due to lightning strikes near the stadium, forcing a Cirque du Soleil halftime show inside a field house nearby.

Touchdowns proved hard to come by in the second half as both Calgary and Montreal continued to settle for field goals despite getting in the red zone.

With Montreal leading 22-15 with five minutes left, Maier led Calgary to the Alouettes 30-yard line but the Stampeders once again settled for a field goal after two incomplete passes.

Montreal’s defence stood tall again on Calgary’s next offensive possession as defensive back Kordell Rodgers picked off Maier with 1:33 remaining.

"We see it every day in practice, we saw it a lot in camp," said Maas of Rodgers. "He's a guy that has a lot of confidence in his abilities, has great technique, doesn't hesitate out there, and will make plays."

Despite the time left on the clock, the Stampeders stormed back once more but Montreal’s defence turned away multiple end zone passes to secure the win.

Calgary now embarks on a tough schedule with two games against the unbeaten Toronto Argonauts (6-0) in their next four.

"This group will win a lot of football games, but the longer you wait on that it gets tougher,” said Dickenson. “Next one is Toronto, undefeated. Just show up and play well and see what happens.”


The Alouettes visit the Tiger-Cats (3-4) on Saturday. Montreal’s next three games come against teams that have lost their starting quarterbacks to injury — Hamilton, Saskatchewan and Ottawa.

The Stampeders play Friday at home against Toronto. Calgary then plays the B.C. Lions, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Argonauts again.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press