Alouettes down Hamilton to advance to Eastern Final

MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes have scratched an eight-year itch.

The Als defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-17 on Sunday, punching their ticket to the Eastern Final next week in Toronto against the Argonauts. It marks the first time the Alouettes have been in the Eastern Final since 2014.

Trevor Harris made 27-34 passes for 243 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Walter Fletcher rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. Eugene Lewis had seven catches for 98 yards.

Dane Evans made 7-10 passes for 123 yards and an interception and was pulled early in the third quarter for backup Matthew Shiltz. The former Alouette had a touchdown and an interception in his half of work.

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» Als’ defence plays pivotal role in Semi-Final win
» Ticats unable to find the spark they were after

The Alouettes came roaring out of their bird cage on Sunday, on a drive that started with a 49-yard kickoff return from Chandler Worthy. Five plays later, Harris had found Jake Wieneke for his third touchdown reception of the season on a 14-yard connection. David Cote’s convert went through at 3:29 to give the Alouettes a 7-0 lead.

The Alouettes’ defence got the stop it wanted in its first appearance on the field, but Ticats’ kicker Seth Small put some points on the board. His 47-yard field goal made it a 7-3 game at 5:34.

Quiet much of this season, Wieneke made himself heard in the first quarter. Harris looked to him twice on the Als’ next touchdown drive. He connected with him for a total of 28 yards while also finding Lewis for a highlight reel 33-yard grab. It was eventually finished off from the one-yard line by backup quarterback Dominique Davis. Cote’s point after pushed the score to 14-3 at 12:59.

The Ticats had a lengthy, nine-play drive to close out the first quarter, but could only get as far as Montreal’s 16-yard line. Small sent his second field goal of the day home from 23-yards out to inch his team closer at 14-6, 2:43 into the second quarter.

Harris and the Als continued to assert themselves, though. At Hamilton’s 33-yard line, Harris handed the ball to Fletcher, who danced around the Ticats’ defence to find the end zone. Fletcher’s first touchdown of the day helped push the Als’ lead to 21-6 at 5:17.

Both quarterbacks dealt with turnovers before the half came to a close. Evans was picked off by Mike Jones, but all that the Als were able to get out of it was a single from 69 yards out. Harris had a tipped pass reeled in by a diving Tunde Adeleke, but the Ticats were punting soon after.

Evans took the Ticats’ first drive of the second half, but head coach Orlondo Steinauer turned to Shiltz on the team’s second drive of the half.

Shiltz brought the spark that the Ticats needed. Fresh into the game, he put together and eight-play, 57-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Steven Dunbar Jr at 7:05. Shiltz then found Anthony Johnson on the two-point convert, getting the Ticats within eight at 22-14.

Worthy’s outstanding 47-yard return set his team up at Hamilton’s 18-yard line late in the third quarter. With the final seconds ticking away on second down, Harris was sacked, forcing the Als to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Cote. The ball clanged off of the upright and pinged through for the three points, giving the Als a 25-14 lead.

After the Als’ defence stifled Shiltz and the Ticats, bringing Small out for a 35-yard field goal, Montreal’s lead shrunk to eight again, at 25-17, 3:25 into the fourth.

The Ticats’ defence stood strong on a short yardage play to get a turnover on downs at the Hamilton 50-yard line with 6:26 to play, but the Alouettes’ defence had an answer waiting. With Shiltz at Montreal’s 40, he looked deep and was picked off by Jones — his second interception of the day — at the seven-yard line, snuffing out a potential touchdown.

At the other end of the field with just over two minutes to play, Beverette absolutely leveled Shiltz, forcing the ball out of his hands. Chris Ackie recovered on Hamilton’s 25-yard line and after the play survived a Ticats’ challenge, Harris and the offence took over. The group could smell blood as they worked their way closer to the end zone, with a packed Molson Stadium trying to will their players across the line.

The crowd roared as the offence lined up for Cote’s 12-yard field goal with 16 seconds left, starting a party that would stretch into Sunday night.

The Als will move on to face the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field in the Eastern Final on Sunday, Nov. 13.

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