Lemon records 100th career sack as Als' defence dominates Redblacks

Montreal won 29-3 over Ottawa Monday afternoon before an announced Thanksgiving Day crowd of 20,664 at Molson Stadium — the club’s second-highest attendance this season.

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The magical moment for Shawn Lemon came on the second play of the second half.

That everyone inside Molson Stadium saw it coming — except the intended target, Ottawa quarterback Dustin Crum — added some panache to the historic event.

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Lemon, the Alouettes’ veteran rush-end who only joined the team on July 24, recorded his 100th career sack early in the second half of Montreal’s dominant 29-3 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks Monday afternoon before an announced Thanksgiving Day crowd of 20,664 — the club’s second-highest attendance this season.

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With Crum running for his life, Lemon looped around and caught the beleaguered pivot from behind, splattering him to the turf. It was one of five sacks produced by the Als’ defence in perhaps their most complete performance this season.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how it would happen, but I knew. … There was a certain play (defensive co-ordinator Noel) Thorpe put in, and he always told me that would be the play on which I’d get my 100th sack,” said Lemon, wearing a Wilt Chamberlain T-shirt produced in honour of the NBA star’s 100-point game on March 2, 1962 against the New York Knicks while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors.

“(Thorpe) was right,” continued Lemon, 35. “I knew when he called it. I had a little extra juice in me on that play. I’m just excited that I got it done. I knew today would be the day. I’m just thankful and excited.”

It was Lemon’s eighth sack in only his 11th game. He also has two interceptions, one forced fumble and has scored a touchdown. If Lemon hasn’t single-handedly changed the mindset of Montreal’s defence since his arrival, he certainly has played an integral part in the transformation of the unit, along with middle-linebacker Darnell Sankey, who has improved the Als’ run defence.

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“There’s been a lot of adversity that I’ve overcome in my career,” said Lemon, who has played for every CFL team except Hamilton over 12 years. “I’ve been released when I had six sacks with Edmonton in 2012. I’ve been released when I had 92 sacks in B.C. I’ve been dealing with adversity always, but you control the belief in yourself.”

While Lemon didn’t retain the ball used for the monumental sack, he was presented with the game ball by head coach Jason Maas.

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It was the Als’ third successive victory and improved their record to 9-7 with two regular-season games remaining. Montreal is two points ahead of the Tiger-Cats (8-8), but has already clinched the season series between the teams. The Redblacks are now 4-12, destined for another last-place finish in the East Division. The Als defeated Ottawa four times this season.

During Montreal’s three-game winning streak, the team has allowed a combined 29 points, virtually unheard of in the CFL. The only caveat to this accomplishment is that it has come against Calgary and twice against Ottawa, the Als improving to 9-0 against the league’s weaker teams. Montreal has yet to defeat Toronto, Winnipeg or B.C., the three strongest clubs.

“The defence has been playing a high level of football,” Maas said. “They’re physical at the point of attack, taking the ball away, scoring touchdowns, getting after the quarterback. I don’t know that there’s too much not to like about them. They’re playing at an extremely high level and they’re believing in what we’re calling and working together. Playing for one another.

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“It’s extremely fun to watch.”

Along with the five sacks on Monday, Montreal’s defence limited the Redblacks to 11 first downs and a paltry 180 yards’ net offence. Ottawa’s offence had the ball less than 23 minutes while running only 43 plays. At the intermission, the visitors had been held to four first downs and 75 yards’ offence.

Crum completed five of 13 passes for 72 yards before being replaced by Nick Arbuckle to start the fourth quarter.

The Als, as is becoming their custom, scored another defensive touchdown. This one came early in the fourth quarter when Reggie Stubblefield forced an Arbuckle fumble, recovered by Tyrice Beverette, who returned it 36 yards.

Montreal has scored eight defensive touchdowns this season — five on interceptions and three fumble returns. It’s an impressive total and has come in handy on a team that struggles offensively to find the end zone.

“This is pretty special, what these (defensive) guys have been able to accomplish,” Maas said. “It has been very, very impressive.

“It’s huge. It blows games open, obviously. Points are points. It doesn’t matter how you get them. It obviously helps you win ball games. Those are critical plays our defence is making. It’s one thing to get a turnover. When you can turn it into points, it’s another ball game. When you’re able to do that consistently throughout the year, it’s just awesome. They’ve done it a number of times and it helps us win, each and every time.”

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Montreal quarterback Cody Fajardo was nearly perfect, completing 28 of 32 passes for 272 yards and a 38-yard touchdown strike to Tyson Philpot. Backup QB Caleb Evans culminated a 102-yard drive in the third quarter with a one-yard scoring run.

José Maltos, replacing the injured David Côté, made field goals from 45 and 18 yards, but missed from 49 and 48 and is no threat to Côté’s job security.

The Als are in Edmonton Saturday afternoon.

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