CFL East semifinal preview: What you need to know about Alouettes vs. Tiger-Cats

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli(8) scrambles under pressure during second half CFL football game against the Montreal Alouettes in Hamilton. (Peter Power/CP)

A capsule look at the 2021 CFL East semifinal between the visiting Montreal Alouettes (7-7) and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-6).

THE SCHEDULE: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT at Tim Hortons Field.

THE LINE: The Ticats opened as 4.5-point favourites at

AT STAKE: The winner goes to Toronto to face the Argonauts in the East final Dec. 5.

THE SEASON SERIES: Tied at 1-1. The Ticats won 27-10 in Montreal on Aug. 27 before the Als rallied from a 17-3 deficit to win 23-20 in overtime in Hamilton on Oct. 2.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: The Ticats have the longest Grey Cup drought of any team, last hoisting the mug in 1999. They came close in 2019, finishing with a league-best 15-3 record and then crushing Edmonton (a crossover team) in the East final before falling to Winnipeg in the Grey Cup. The Alouettes made the playoffs for the first time since 2014 in 2019 before losing to Edmonton in the East semi. The Als’ last Grey Cup came in 2010.

THE COACHES: Orlondo Steinauer (Hamilton) vs. Khari Jones (Montreal)

A battle between two second-year head coaches – both of whom were popular players in the CFL.

Steinauer, a five-time all-star as a defensive back, was coach of the year in 2019 after cutting his coaching teeth as an assistant and defensive co-ordinator with Toronto, Hamilton and Fresno State University. Jones, a former quarterback and the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2001, guided the Als to a turnaround 10-8 season in his first year as head coach in 2019. He was an assistant coach and offensive co-ordinator with Hamilton, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Montreal before being promoted to the Als’ top job less than a week before the ’19 season opener after the departure of former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman.

THE QUARTERBACKS: Jeremiah Masoli (Hamilton) vs. Trevor Harris (Montreal)

Masoli beat out Dane Evans for the starting job this year after the latter man took over for an injured Masoli in 2019 and led the Ticats to the Grey Cup game. It’s been an up-and-down season for Masoli, who dealt with a rib injury earlier in the campaign. But Masoli has thrown just two interceptions in his past six games, both coming in a rough outing against Toronto in the second-last week of the season.

Harris fell out of favour in Edmonton and was dealt to the Als at the trade deadline after starter Vernon Adams Jr. suffered a shoulder injury. He has thrown seven touchdowns and two interceptions in three starts for Montreal. It's the same quarterback matchup as the 2018 CFL East final when Harris threw six touchdown passes to lead the Ottawa Redblacks to victory over Masoli’s Ticats. The next year, Harris’ Edmonton team lost to Evans and the Ticats in the East final.


Alouettes' No. 1-ranked running back vs. Ticats' No. 1-ranked rush defence

William Stanback, the East finalist for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, has been the dominant running back in the league all season. But he racked up just 40 and 59 rushing yards, respectively, in the two games against Hamilton. Veteran Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence, the defensive player of the year in the East, overtook Rob Hitchcock as the franchise leader in career total tackles this year and anchors a strong defensive front.

Ticats' kickers vs. history

Hamilton's kickers have struggled this year – and that can be a big issue come playoff time. Michael Domagala took the job from Taylor Bertolet late in the year and has connected on 7-of-10 field goals, with his 70 per cent success rate being 10th in the league. His longest field goal is from just 46 yards. Montreal’s David Cote is 32-for-39 (82.1 per cent) with a long of 49.

Als vs. one of the league's best crowds

Hamilton has an excellent record at Tim Hortons Field in recent years. The Ticats were 5-2 at the Donut Box this year and 9-0 (10-0 if you count the playoff win) in 2019. With the Grey Cup in Hamilton and a potential East final just down the road in Toronto (an easy train ride or drive for Ticats fans), Steinauer’s squad has a favourable path to the big game. The Alouettes haven’t won a road playoff game since the 2005 East final in Toronto.

THIS 'N THAT: Als linebacker Patrick Levels started the week with some possible billboard material, guaranteeing a victory. “We will win in Hamilton,” Levels told reporters. “Put it as big as you need to put it. Black it out.” … The Ticats led the division with 10 players on the CFL East all-star team, while the Alouettes had seven … The Ticats beat the Alouettes 40-24 in the most recent playoff game between the teams – the 2014 CFL East final. Hamilton has won the past six playoff games between the franchises … Ticats receiver Brandon (Speedy) Banks, the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2019, has been quieter this season. He tied for 25th in receiving yards with 474 in 10 games … The Alouettes have the top two players in receiving touchdowns – Jake Wieneke (11) and Eugene Lewis (nine).

PREDICTION: Hamilton 24, Montreal 20

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.