The locker room was alive Saturday at TD Place, the loud laughter and giddiness byproducts of the Ottawa Redblacks’ second straight win.
Never mind that the Redblacks, sitting on a hard-earned, well-deserved 31-3 lead, nearly let it get away, giving up 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points to the B.C. Lions, saved by a late Jonathan Newsome interception on a ball tipped into the air by Sherrod Baltimore, who had continued to make his presence felt with seven tackles.
In an East Division where every victory is worth its weight in gold, the Redblacks are in second place — three wins, six losses and a tie. High on the important list are two dates with the Alouettes in the next three weeks, both in Montreal — the first, Thursday, the second Sept. 17. When they talk about “four-point games,” these would certainly qualify.
“This four-game set — this game today, going to Montreal two times and playing Hamilton here — that’s going to go a long way to determining how the rest of the season finishes out,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. “We’re 1-0 in that four-game set. It’s going to be a tough game in Montreal, but I know our guys will be ready to go.”
“We looked at these games; if we can run the table, we put ourselves in good position down the stretch,” said QB Trevor Harris, who completed 30 of 45 passes for 326 yards, but tossed a couple of interceptions on questionable decisions. “It’s a critical Eastern matchup so we have to make sure we lick our wounds and be ready to go. It’s not time to take our foot off the gas, we have to put pedal to the metal to do everything we can do to try and win the East.”
With Ottawa holding a 14-point lead, Harris threw a pass toward Greg Ellingson, but B.C. defender Ronnie Yell stepped in front, picked it off and high-stepped it to the Ottawa three-yard line, pushed out of bounds by the quarterback. The Lions scored on the next play.
Explained Harris: “The boundary corner collisioned Jake (Harty) really hard. When he did that, I was like, ‘Sweet, I’m taking Greg here.’ But when he collisioned (Harty), he slipped inside. He made a great play. That’s something I’ve got to learn from, see it on film and make sure I don’t do that again.”
Harris said the Redblacks are still a work in progress. Keeping momentum in the fourth quarter is something they need to get better at. They can’t be letting opponents crawl back in.
“We can’t let that happen,” he said. “ It’s critical we learn from it. I told you guys when we were 1-6, we’re going to be in the thick of it in the end. I really believe that still.”
“Those first three quarters, that was Ottawa Redblacks football,” said defensive back Jonathan Rose. “It’s a hump we’re still trying to get over, trying to get from being up so high, then we drop so low and make the game so close.”
Harty was a factor in the game, getting more time following an injury to Kenny Shaw and responding with six catches.
“If you watch the way he’s played on offence and on special teams, he’s a tough, hard-nosed football player and a good receiver, and we’re lucky we have him,” said Campbell.
“I knew I would be the sixth guy; if a guy went down I had to step up and make sure this offence stays on track,” said Harty.
Diontae Spencer also delivered a big performance. His night included a 91-yard return on a missed field goal.
“I should have taken it all the way,” said Spencer. “I saw the kicker and the holder overpursuing so I cut it back. When I cut it back, I had two of my teammates, I kind of ran into them. I’m pretty happy. We got the W, that’s what matters most. This team is coming together, hopefully we can stay on this run.”
Running back Mossis Madu Jr., who has been in and out of the lineup, depending on the health of William Powell, also delivered through the air and on the ground. He scored two touchdowns.
“Momentum is huge,” he said. “When you win, you’re confident, you develop a swagger. That’s two in a row, we’re going to try and make it three.”
“I don’t know if you learn (killer instinct), you just go out and do it. Thank God that didn’t go south like some of the games have for us this year. It’s good to know we overcame.”
The last word goes to Newsome, the defensive lineman who made his Redblacks debut.
“If you worry about one game at a time, worry about winning that game, everything takes care of itself,” he said.
The Redblacks did a lot of good things. For three quarters, the play calling showed imagination and the execution was good. Then came the fourth quarter … and it was same old, same old. There are still some offensive line miscues. If Kenny Shaw is out for any length of time, he’ll be missed.
They did a really good job of baffling Lions QB Jonathan Jennings, who had trouble targeting his throws accurately. The Redblacks also shut down Chris Williams, the speedster who put up big numbers as a member of the Ottawa team in 2015 and ’16. Jeremiah Johnson, another former Redblack, had two TDs, but didn’t do much else.
SPECIAL TEAMS A-
Some really nice work by Diontae Spencer, who had a 91-yard return on a missed field goal and a 61-yard punt return. Bret Maher averaged 47.8 yards on his punts and was 4-for-4 on field goals, but had a convert blocked. The Redblacks did allow B.C.’s Chris Rainey to return a kickoff 49 yards.
Original article written by Tim Baines can be found here.