Alouettes relish underdog role in division final against Argonauts

“That’s exactly how we want it,” QB Cody Fajardo says. “We don’t want anyone giving us flowers now all of a sudden. We want people to continue saying: ‘You guys have no chance.’ “

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The Alouettes — a team without an owner and starting quarterback last February — spent the season defying the odds and shocking the CFL.

And if they have to climb one more mountain Saturday afternoon (3 p.m., TSN1, TSN4, RDS, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM) against the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division final at BMO Field, they’re prepared to try and accomplish this while overcoming what appears to be the impossible.

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“Nobody expected anything from us this year and, going into this game, nobody expects us to win,” said starting quarterback Cody Fajardo, who signed with the Alouettes as a free agent following the departure of Trevor Harris. “That’s exactly how we want it. We don’t want anyone giving us flowers now all of a sudden. We want people to continue saying: ‘You guys have no chance.’

“We play for one another and we’ll see what happens when the final whistle blows.”

Not only are the Argos the defending Grey Cup champions, they became only the second team in league history to go 16-2. That included an unblemished 9-0 record at home. Three of Toronto’s victories came at the Alouettes’ expense, including a convincing 39-10 win at BMO Field on Sept. 9.

Toronto is coming off a bye in the playoffs’ opening round after finishing first in the division. And they haven’t played a meaningful game since Sept. 15, when they clinched the division against Montreal.

Edmonton, the only other CFL team to win 16 games in 1989, lost the division final to Saskatchewan (9-9). In the CFL and in a one-game scenario anything is possible.

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“There’s no stretching the imagination, they’re (Toronto) a great team,” Alouettes head coach Jason Maas said. “They’re the defending Grey Cup champs … 16-2 … 9-0 at home. I don’t think you’d want to write it any different than this. We had to fight like hell to get back to meet them again in an important game.

“We haven’t been shy one bit all year saying each and every game’s going to present itself to be bigger than the last one. This is the biggest all year. We’re truly excited about another opportunity as a group to go out and play a game.”

The Alouettes (11-7) are coming off a 27-12 victory against Hamilton last Saturday in the East division semifinal, holding the Tiger-Cats without a touchdown. While that’s unlikely to occur against the Argos, Montreal’s fortunes undoubtedly will rest on a defence that scored nine touchdowns this season.

While defence arguably wins championships, the Als failed to defeat teams with winning records and went a combined 0-7 against Toronto, Winnipeg and B.C. The Blue Bombers and Lions meet in Saturday’s West Division final (6:30 p.m.) with berths to the Nov. 19 Grey Cup at Hamilton on the line.

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“I told you at the beginning of training camp we were going to be fast, physical and you’re going to see guys out there being smart,” said linebacker Avery Williams, who forced a fumble in the first quarter last Saturday when the Ticats appeared poised to open the scoring. “When you have guys around you making a ton of plays, it forces you to make a play. It’s a snowball effect.”

Linebacker Tyrice Beverette, the Alouettes’ nominee as outstanding defensive player, had a career season and participated in the bounty of turnovers, returning two of his team-leading four fumbles for touchdowns. He also had seven quarterback sacks and made two Grey Cup appearances with Hamilton before joining Montreal as a free agent.

“As long as we play three phases … I think we have a great chance of coming out on top,” he said. “We’re not focused on being the underdogs. That’s just outside noise to us. We know what we have. We all believe. We don’t feel no less of ourselves. We know what we can accomplish and we’re going into this week feeling very confident.”

The Argos are led by quarterback Chad Kelly, the division finalist as outstanding player. Tailback A.J. Ouellette rushed for 1,009 yards, while DaVaris Daniels was their only 1,000-yard receiver.

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