Quarterback Cody Fajardo threw two touchdown passes and Montreal’s defense held firm as the Alouettes defeated the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27-12 in the CFL East Division semifinal on Saturday.
The Alouettes will move on to play the defending Gray Cup champions, the Argonauts, in Toronto in next Saturday’s Eastern final.
It was the third year in a row that Hamilton and Montreal met at this stage of the playoffs. Montreal also won in front of a home crowd at Molson Stadium last season.
I HAD TO BE ANGRY 🔥
Fajardo threw for 212 yards on 15-of-23 passing and also ran for 62 yards for Montreal, which beat Hamilton for the fourth time this year after sweeping its division rival in the regular season. Fajardo also had an interception in addition to his two touchdown passes to star receiver Austin Mack and wide receiver Jake Harty.
Montreal’s defense dominated with a forced fumble, two interceptions and several deflections. Linebacker Darnell Sankey led the way with eight tackles, two sacks and one interception.
Quarterback Matthew Shiltz threw for 144 yards and one interception on 13-of-23 passing in his first playoff start for Hamilton. He also rushed for 34 yards.
Reserve Bo Levi Mitchell, a two-time Gray Cup MVP, did not enter the game until late in the fourth quarter. He was 1 of 4 for six yards and an interception. Running back James Butler ran for 83 yards on 13 carries.
Both kickers were perfect in the game. Montreal’s David Cote was 4-for-4 on field goals, and Hamilton’s Marc Liegghio was also 4-for-4.
With the Alouettes up 17-12 midway through the fourth quarter, Fajardo found Harty with a 14-yard touchdown pass to give Montreal a two-score lead.
Mitchell came in to try to help Hamilton make a comeback, but faced the same stifling defense as Shiltz. Shawn Lemon sacked Mitchell on second down for a 13-yard loss with under five minutes left.
Montreal scored another field goal with 1:18 left after a pair of big runs by running back William Stanback to take a 27-12 lead.
Canadian Eastern Division standout Marc-Antoine Dequoy then intercepted Mitchell with 49 seconds left to ice the game, but the action didn’t end there.
On the next play, Hamilton defensive back Chris Edwards appeared to throw a punch at Harty after the whistle, prompting both sidelines to clear, several penalties and loud boos from the crowd.
Hamilton opened the second half with a field goal to make the score 17-9 Montreal. Ja’Gared Davis then forced a fumble on Fajardo, but the play was overturned after the referees determined that the Montreal quarterback had hit the ground first.
Neither team scored a touchdown for most of the first half until Sankey intercepted a Shiltz pass with 57 seconds left in the second quarter at the Hamilton 30-yard line.
Mack, who had just returned from going to the locker room after a hard hit moments earlier, caught a 30-yard pass from Fajardo on the next play to put the Alouettes up 14-6 after the halftime conversion.
The Ticats picked up three first downs on the game’s first drive and appeared to get a fourth until Alouettes linebacker Avery Williams tackled receiver Kiondre Smith at the Montreal 30-yard line and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Dionte Montreal Ruffin.
After Montreal punter Joseph Zema singled, Hamilton moved downfield once again, but the Alouettes’ defense prevented the Ticats from reaching the end zone, forcing a 23-yard kick by Liegghio.
Cote kicked his first field goal after Montreal started the second deep in the Hamilton area.
On the next offensive possession, Fajardo drove down the field with multiple completions and a 27-yard run to bring the Alouettes to within 10 yards of the end zone. However, they settled for another kick after a couple of Ticats stops.