November 22, 2009

Not so gentille Alouettes Cup bound

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL — Not even their nemesis the B.C. Lions could stop Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL East Division final.

Calvillo equalled a league playoff record with five touchdown passes and the Alouettes defence stuffed hot quarterback Casey Printers and the Lions’ running game in a 56-18 romp before 53,792 roaring fans at Olympic Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

That put the Alouettes into their seventh Grey Cup game since 2000 next Sunday in Calgary.

“No matter how many points we put up, the objective was to win,” said the 37-year-old Calvillo. “It was exciting to do what we did today, I’ll enjoy it, but we have to get ready for next week.”

Montreal had a dominant 15-3 season while B.C. was only 8-10, but the East final was widely seen as a toss-up because of the strong form Printers showed after joining the Lions in September and because the Alouettes have a history of struggles against their rival from Vancouver. Even with the loss, the Lions are 11-5 against Montreal since Wally Buono became coach in 2003.

But this was no contest. The near-sellout crowd saw the Montreal defence force five turnovers and hold running back Martell Mallett, who had gained 213 yards in a win over the Alouettes this season, to five yards on six carries. The B.C. running game had only 12 total yards.

Meanwhile the Montreal offence shredded B.C. for long gains as Calvillo needed only 19 completions for 312 yards.

“We had a lot of plays designed to get a shot downfield,” said Calvillo. “We felt that when they went into zone (defence), they sometimes get out of position and that’s how it happened.

“It was crazy, throwing the ball and finding guys wide open.”

The Lions, who made long trips across three time zones to the east in consecutive weeks, had no response.

“They were better than us, that’s it,” said all-star defensive end Ricky Foley. “Up front, in the back end, offence, defence — you don’t get beat like that and have too many good parts of the game.”

Jamel Richardson and Brian Bratton, with two each, and Kerry Watkins had TD receptions while Richardson added another on a blocked punt return for Montreal. John Bowman added one more TD with a 41-yard interception return off backup Lions QB Travis Lulay, who replaced Printers late in the game.

Damon Duval added two field goals and a single. Calvillo equalled the league mark for post-season TD passes held by five other players.

Paris Jackson caught a TD throw from Printers, Ryan Grice-Mullen scored on a record 106-yard punt return and Paul McCallum had a field goal for B.C., which was attempting to be the first crossover team to reach the Grey Cup. They beat Hamilton in overtime in the East semifinal last week.

It was a second year in a row the Alouettes defeated a crossover team from the West in the East Division final, having beat Edmonton 36-26 last year.

They face another demon next week — their record of success in the Grey Cup game. Montreal has lost its last four, including last year at home against Calgary, and have only one win in 2002 in six visits to the championship game.

“We all know about our record in the Grey Cup, and that’s something I’ll have a chance to change,” said Calvillo. “I’ve always said, I’ll never quit and the team won’t quit no matter what the record is.

“I’m just glad to have another chance to correct that.”

The game turned only seven minutes in when, after the teams exchanged field goals, Mallett fumbled and Shea Emry recovered on the Lions’ 22. On the next play, Calvillo found Richardson alone in the end zone.

Then Billy Parker returned an interception 45 yards to set up a four-yard TD pass to Watkins and LaVar Glover’s missed tackle let Watkins romp 91 yards to set up a seven-yard TD toss to Richardson to start the second quarter.

The Lions got seven back after Larry Taylor dropped a punt and Tad Crawford recovered, which allowed Printers to find Jackson with a 14-yard throw. But Calvilo answered with a 45-yard scoring pass to Bratton. A late B.C. single made it 31-11 at halftime.

Momentum could have switched 4:54 into the third quarter as Grice-Mullen raced around the left side for a 106-yard punt return TD, beating a league playoff record 103-yard return by Henry (Gizmo) Wiliams of Edmonton in 1992.

But Montreal marched back for Bratton’s 14-yard TD catch and Cory Huclack blocked a punt and Richardson ran it in at 11:20.

“When they blocked that punt it was basically over,” said Jackson.

Duval added a field goal and then a point on a missed field goal to give the Alouettes a team-record 49 points, one more than they scored in a playoff game against Hamilton in 1956.

The teams had split their last four meetings, with no game decided by more than a touchdown, and this one was also expected to go down to the wire. Instead, it was a blowout.

“We all decided that it doesn’t have to be close because we saw some things we could do defensively and offensively and we went out and played hard from the first kickoff,” said Montreal rush end Anwar Stewart. “It was big play after big play.

“It’s our turn. We had a pick and a fumble early and scored off them, and when you do that, sometimes it takes the air out of their sails.”

Alouettes back-up receiver Andrew Hawkins was carried off favouring his right leg in the second half and coach Marc Trestman said he does not expect him to be available for the Grey Cup game.

Notes: The Lions lost cornerback Dante Marsch to an injury early in the first quarter. . . The last QB with five TD tosses in a playoff game was Danny Barrett in 1991. . .Richardson tied a team record shared by three others with three TDs in a playoff game.. . It was Montreal’s first game at the Big O since a loss to Calgary in last year’s Grey Cup game.