November 24, 2023

Steinberg: Six unsung heroes of the 110th Grey Cup

Cody Fajardo. Tyson Philpot. Kabion Ento. Austin Mack. Jason Maas.

These are the names that will come to mind first when thinking about Montreal’s 28-24 win over Winnipeg in the 110th Grey Cup…and for darn good reason. But the Alouettes don’t pull off their incredible comeback without contributions up and down the roster.

Here are a few other players who made big impacts in Montreal’s thrilling win.

Darnell Sankey, linebacker

Sankey joining the Als may have been the biggest turning point of their season, and not just because he declared they weren’t going to lose again after his debut. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Sankey made a huge difference against the Bombers. After all, that’s all he did in Montreal’s first two playoff games and in his six regular season games.

110th GREY CUP
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» Costabile: Four memorable moments from the 110th Grey Cup
» Tyson Philpost named Most Valuable Canadian of the 110th Grey Cup

Sankey led the Alouettes with eight defensive tackles in Sunday’s Grey Cup, which is par for the course knowing he also led the CFL in that category in both 2021 and 2022. Sankey was a menace from start to finish and found himself in Winnipeg’s backfield multiple times; he also finished with a sack in the victory.

Shawn Lemon, defensive end

For a guy who didn’t even catch on in Montreal until July, it’s pretty remarkable to think how crucial Lemon was upon his arrival. One of the greatest pass rushers of his era, Lemon recorded nine sacks in 13 regular season games before adding another three in the Eastern Semi-Final and Final.

Then in Sunday’s Grey Cup, Lemon was one of the driving forces as the Alouettes made life difficult on Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros all night long. Lemon recorded a sack and three defensive tackles as Montreal consistently kept Collaros off-balance. Oh, and he also gave us one of the most epic live post-game interviews in Grey Cup history.

Cole Spieker, receiver


Before Fajardo to Philpot completed a Grey Cup fairy tale, there was Fajardo to Spieker to keep the Alouettes alive. Let’s not forget it felt like the game might have been over when Shayne Gauthier sacked Fajardo for a loss of eight with just over a minute remaining. After Fajardo ran for 13 yards on the next play, Montreal was facing third-and-five with the game on the line.

That’s when Fajardo hit Spieker for 31 yards to set Montreal up for Philpot’s game winning heroics. I think it’s fair to say that was the biggest reception in Spieker’s professional career, which is saying something knowing he also reeled in a 23-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Mustafa Johnson, defensive tackle

Lemon and defensive end partner Lwal Uguak were huge reasons why the Alouettes made life tough on Collaros all night. Perhaps just as important, though, was how Montreal disrupted from the middle of their defensive line. And that was spearhead by the duo of second-year standout Johnson and veteran Almondo Sewell.

Johnson was great in his first ever Grey Cup start. The 24-year-old finished with a sack and three defensive tackles as he and Sewell played a huge part in keeping Winnipeg’s offensive line busy. Johnson started to establish himself as a consistent disruptive interior force in the back half of the regular season and that carried over into Sunday’s Grey Cup win.

William Stanback, running back


I wonder where this game would have gone had Stanback not busted off his 32-yard touchdown run in the late stages of the first quarter. Down 10-0 at the time, it felt like the game was on the verge of getting away on the Alouettes as they lined up for their second offensive series.

But, after a couple Fajardo completions to move the ball to the Winnipeg 32, Stanback’s touchdown run capped off one of the most important drives of the game. Had the Alouettes not scored as confidently as they did on that drive, who knows how things would have played out. Stanback finished his first Grey Cup start with 68 rushing yards on nine carries.

Anthony Calvillo, offensive coordinator

Never thought you’d see Calvillo as an unsung here when talking about a Montreal win, hey? We all know Calvillo as the driving force of three Alouettes Grey Cup wins as a quarterback, of course. But, in winning his first title as an offensive coordinator, Calvillo deserves some recognition for the game plan he came up with to counter the Blue Bombers.

Calvillo’s play calling dialed up well-timed short passes and bubble screens to keep Winnipeg’s vaunted pass rush guessing. And it was clear Fajardo’s commitment to getting the ball away quickly was very much part of the blueprint. Montreal’s offensive line had allowed ten sacks in their first two playoff games after a regular season where they allowed 61. But when it mattered the most, that wasn’t a factor in the slightest.

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