MONTREAL – Chevon Walker had two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air as the Ottawa REDBLACKS earned their first ever pre-season win, 26-10 over the Montreal Alouettes Friday night at Percival Molson Stadium.
It was one of three games on the CFL docket as the league prepares to open its regular season schedule next Thursday in Winnipeg.
Friday night also marked the first look at one of the Alouettes’ more high-profile off-season acquisitions, receiver Chad Johnson. The outspoken pass-catcher amassed over 11,000 yards in the NFL but was making his Montreal debut at Percival Molson after sitting out last week’s pre-season opener vs. Hamilton with an ankle injury.
Troy Smith made his first appearance of the year, getting the start under centre for Montreal, and wasted little time finding the man formerly known as “Ochocinco”. The two connected on the Als first play from scrimmage for a 13-yard gain but were forced to kick the ball away two plays later. It was Johnson’s only reception on the evening.
The teams traded punts before Ottawa put together their first scoring drive of the evening.
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Henry Burris made the start for the REDBLACKS and played the entire first half. With just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter, he found WR Dobson Collins for a 28-yard gain and then connected with Matt Carter on a throw-behind for a 34-yard reception. Burris would then hand off to Walker for his second touchdown in as many weeks – this one a three-yard major to cap off a 3-play, 65-yard drive.
Last week, the REDBLACKS made their CFL debut in Regina where they were technically declared the home team while they await their TD Place Stadium to finish construction. Ottawa fell to the Saskatchewan Roughriders but looked sharp in spurts.
Burris, Walker and the rest of the REDBLACKS offence only continued to march from there on their ensuing drive. After the Alouettes booted a 33-yard field goal, Burris found former BC Lion and Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Kierre Johnson for 17 and 36-yard gains, before Walker punched in his second major. This one, from 1-yard out, completed a 5-play, 60-yard drive which extended the Ottawa lead to 14-4 midway through the second frame.
Making Ottawa’s start all the more impressive was that Burris and co. were going up against what looked to be Montreal’s entire starting defensive unit.
The Als would add another field goal before Burris put together one more drive to cap off an impressive first half. The savvy pivot led an 8-play, 85-yard possession, finding Walker in the flat for his third touchdown of the game, this one off a 5-yard pass.
The touchdown came with seven seconds left on the game clock as the REDBLACKS took a 22-7 lead into halftime.
Both Burris and Smith would lead their teams out in the third quarter but only play one drive with the former holding the edge on the stats sheet. Smilin’ Hank completed 17 of 22 passes for 247 yards and leading three touchdown drives. Smith meanwhile, went 11 of 22 for 141, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tanner Marsh would enter for the Alouettes and promptly led a solid drive resulting in a 19-yard Sean Whyte field goal to cut the Ottawa lead to 23-10. The REDBLACKS countered with former BC Lions pivot Thomas DeMarco in the third quarter.
Both defences hunkered down for most of the third frame with Ottawa’s front seven making the biggest play on the quarter’s last play. With Montreal gambling on their own 25 yard line on third-and-one, the REDBLACKS defence got the stop they needed, handing the ball back to DeMarco in stellar field position.
Montreal’s defence would answer with a stand of its own and force Ottawa to settle for a 17-yard field goal.
DeMarco left the game with just under seven minutes remaining, leaving Danny O’Brien to finish out the game.
Montreal now turns their attention to the Calgary Stampeders who they will face in the regular season opener next Saturday at McMahon Stadium. Meanwhile, the REDBLACKS will have some time off before opening their first ever regular season against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 2.
Both teams face major decisions as final cuts have to be filed by 11:59 ET on Saturday night.