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Sports: Hamilton Tiger-Cats look to keep Montreal RB Stanback in check in CFL East semifinal

Alouettes' Stanback bulldozes his way to outstanding player nomination

  Alouettes' Stanback bulldozes his way to outstanding player nomination On an Alouettes team generally devoid of stars — and one that’s onto its third starting quarterback — one player has stood out. And it’s hard to fathom exactly where this club would be without the contributions of running-back William Stanback — the Als’ nominee as most outstanding player. “It’s pretty special that it’s Will, and it speaks to his impact on this team — the fact he stands out,” head coach Khari Jones said on Wednesday, when the CFL announced each team’s nominees for the league’s outstanding player awards. “Sometimes (tailback) isn’t necessarily a stand-out position,” Jones added. “But he’s that good and he stands out.

It will be strength versus strength Sunday in the East Division semifinal.

  Hamilton Tiger-Cats look to keep Montreal RB Stanback in check in CFL East semifinal © Provided by The Canadian Press

The CFL's top-rushing offence will square off against the league's stingiest run defence when the Montreal Alouettes visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Als ran for 144.5 yards per game, led by rushing leader William Stanback (1,176 yards) while the Ticats allowed just 79.6 yards on the ground.

The six-foot, 233-pound Stanback averaged 6.1 yards per carry and this week was named the East Division's outstanding player. Montreal split its season series with Hamilton 1-1, but the Ticats held Stanback to 71 combined yards rushing on 24  carries (2.96-yard average).

Alouettes LB Levels guarantees victory against Tiger-Cats in Sunday's playoff showdown

  Alouettes LB Levels guarantees victory against Tiger-Cats in Sunday's playoff showdown Patrick Levels , somewhat predictably given his confidence and honesty, has guaranteed the Alouettes will defeat Hamilton this Sunday in the East Division semifinal. And, although the veteran linebacker potentially has provided bulletin-board material for the Tiger-Cats, Montreal head coach Khari Jones doesn’t seem overly concerned. “We will win in Hamilton,” Levels said on Monday. “Put it as big as you need to put it. Black it out. We coming. The Montreal Alouettes. See you soon. I can’t wait. The mood hasn’t changed. I don’t care about the regular season anymore. Don’t ask me about how we did. It’s over. It’s a new season. Everybody’s 0-0. Get ready for a show.

Stanback ran for 40 yards on 12 carries in Hamilton's 27-10 road win Aug. 27, a game the visitors broke open by outscoring Montreal 14-0 in the fourth quarter. Stanback had 59 rushing yards on 12 carries in the rematch as the Alouettes rallied from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to capture a 23-20 overtime win at Tim Hortons Field on Oct. 2.

With that victory, Montreal snapped Hamilton's 11-game home win streak.

The ground game is of vital importance to Montreal, which also leads the CFL in both net offence (371.8 yards per game) and time of possession (33 minutes 19 seconds). Not only are the Alouettes second overall in offensive points (22.7 per game) and offensive touchdowns (31), but they're limiting their opposition's scoring chances by holding on ball.

Collaros, Stanback named as division finalists for CFL's outstanding player honour

  Collaros, Stanback named as division finalists for CFL's outstanding player honour TORONTO — Quarterback Zach Collaros of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and running back William Stanback of the Montreal Alouettes are the finalists for the CFL's outstanding player award. The CFL revealed the division finalists for its top individual honours Thursday. Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada as well as the league's nine head coaches. Collaros, 33, led Winnipeg to a CFL-best 11-3 record and top spot in the West Division. The six-foot-two, 222-pound quarterback completed 243-of-346 passes (70.2 per cent) for 3,185 yards with a league-high 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.

The ground game is a big part of that as Montreal had a CFL-high 360 rushing attempts this season, 41 more than the No. 2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Hamilton's defence was difficult to both run and score against. The Ticats allowed just 16.1 offensive points per game, second only to Winnipeg (12.9).

The Ticats will face Montreal quarterback Trevor Harris for the first time. Veteran Vernon Adams Jr. started both regular-season games for the Alouettes before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that resulted in the club acquiring Harris from Edmonton.

Jeremiah Masoli is expected to get the start for Hamilton. Dane Evans was under centre for the Ticats' win in Montreal while Masoli played in the overtime loss to the Alouettes.

Whoever starts for Hamilton will face a Montreal defence that registered a CFL-high 49 sacks and held opposing offences to under 294 net yards per game (second overall).

Inside the CFL: Harris, Stanback and defence could help Als defy odds

  Inside the CFL: Harris, Stanback and defence could help Als defy odds It’s the most wonderful time of the year for CFL fans. The playoffs begin Sunday and, for the second consecutive season — following what felt like an interminable absence of four years — the Alouettes are one of six teams remaining in the hunt for the Grey Cup, which Montreal last won in 2010. And doesn’t this post-season feel even sweeter, considering the 2020 CFL schedule was cancelled? But the road ahead appears steep for the Als, who travel to Hamilton for Sunday’s East Division semifinal. Not only did they finish third, meaning they must win twice on the road to qualify for the Grey Cup, their 7-7 record is the poorest among the six playoff teams.

And while Hamilton was 5-2 at Tim Hortons Field this year, Montreal had a winning road record (4-3) and was 5-2 this season within the division.

Pick -- Hamilton.

Calgary Stampeders versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Sunday afternoon)

At Regina, Calgary comes in as the CFL's hottest team having won three straight and six of its last seven overall. The only blemish on that stretch was a 20-17 home loss to Saskatchewan on Oct. 23.

Still, Calgary won the season series 2-1 after sweeping a home-and-home series with the Riders Oct. 2-9. And after losing five of their first seven games, the Stampeders find themselves in the CFL playoffs for the 16th consecutive year.

It's been a different sort of year for Calgary starter Bo Levi Mitchell. The two-time CFL outstanding player had more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (10) but still won seven-of-11 starts.

And with running back Ka'Deem Carey (869 rushing yards, seven TDs) and the return of receiver Reggie Begelton (102 catches, 1,444 yards, 10 TDs in 2019), Calgary's offence certainly has enough firepower.

Saskatchewan comes in having won four of its last five regular-season games, the loss being a 24-3 road decision to Hamilton after cementing second in the West Division. Quarterback Cody Fajardo threw for 2,970 yards with 14 TDs and 11 interceptions but the Riders were a distant seventh in offensive points scored (19.6 per game).

The late-season addition of receiver Duke Williams gives Fajardo another offensive weapon along with a healthy Shaq Evans, who missed seven games this year with a broken foot.

An interesting matchup will be a Calgary offence that only allowed 20 sacks (second-fewest) facing a Riders' defence that registered 47 and forced 34 turnovers (both second-most). Leading the way for Saskatchewan were A.C. Leonard (11 sacks) and Jonathan Woodward (10), who finished first and second, respectively, in the CFL.

Pick -- Calgary.

Last week: 3-2.

Overall: 35-28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats are at opposite ends in Grey Cup contest .
HAMILTON — Head coaches Orlondo Steinauer of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Mike O'Shea of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will again be on opposite sidelines at the Grey Cup game. Hamilton will have home-field advantage Sunday when it faces Winnipeg at a sold-out Tim Hortons Field. The Blue Bombers come in as defending champion after downing the Ticats 33-12 in the 2019 Grey Cup. This time around, the roles are certainly reversed. In 2019, Steinauer guided Hamilton to a CFL-best 15-3 record, tying the league mark for most wins by a first-year head coach.

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