30 mai 2024

Le rouge et noir visent une amélioration et une victoire lors de la finale de la pré-saison

Around TD Place, preparations are well underway for the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ first home game of the season on Friday night, when they host the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes in their preseason finale.

The field has been painted, banners around the stadium hung, and the final spring cleaning has been completed, as football season officially commences in the nation’s capital for the REDBLACKS’ 10th anniversary season. Yes, it might be the preseason, but when the players take to the field in their freshly stitched white uniforms, it won’t feel like a dress rehearsal.

Although there are no points up for grabs in the standings, Head Coach Bob Dyce is treating this game no different than he would any other, demanding his players go in with the same mindset.

“I’m expecting us to come out and play a physical game, and compete at a very high level,” he said. “Every time we come out on the field, our goal is to win, and this game is no different.”

The REDBLACKS are expected to play their starters for a half of football according to Dyce, including new additions Dru Brown, Dominique Rhymes, and Adarius Pickett. Barring a change of the plan, they will rotate through other options in the second half, using the snaps to evaluate and make final decisions on a handful of roster spots.

For many of the REDBLACKS’ presumptive starters, this will be their first action of the preseason, and the only live reps they’ll see before their home opening in Week 2.

“You just really want to get your pads wet and get that first hit in,” said linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox. “It’s enough. We’ll be able to adapt and play fast off of it.”

Unlike the veterans pencilled into the starting lineup, many still require a big night to make the final roster.

To date, they have made their case through training camp and a preseason win in Hamilton a week ago, but Friday night represents one final opportunity to make an impression on the REDBLACKS’ front office and coaching staff, one that could be the difference between making the club, or searching for the next opportunity.

“I want to do whatever I can when the moment presents itself,” rookie receiver and kick returner Kalil Pimpleton said. “I want to help this team reach its full potential, but obviously, I still haven’t made the team, so my first goal is to go out and do my best to give myself the opportunity to make the roster.”

Whether a player is in Canada for the first time in their career, or they’re coming to terms with the professional game, adjustments are a constant in the CFL. It could be the one-yard gap for players in the trenches, the waggle, the 12th player on the field, keeping five yards away from the kick returner, or even a new playbook for veterans, but there isn’t anyone on the field without something to learn.

A win is the goal on everyone’s mind, but it’s the little things that help you get there that will receive extra attention post-game.

“We’re asking for a lot out of these guys, and it’s all coming at them at once,” said Offensive Line Coach Pat Perles. “You have to get better incrementally.”

So far, training camp has been successful for the REDBLACKS. The vibes around the stadium have been sublime, fueled by new hope and optimism, and a victory on Friday night – coupled with remaining healthy – would be the icing on the cake.

On the practice field, players are noticing subtle differences that they hope will lead to success in 2024.

“It’s confidence and trust,” Santos-Knox said. “We’ve built a lot of it with one another throughout this camp, and I think you’re going to see that. We’re flying around as a defensive unit, and we’re confident. This swagger is going to show up out there.”

Regardless of if it’s preseason or not, there’s nothing that gets a football player more excited than the opportunity to play the game they love, in front of their home fans.

“I’m excited to see the identity of the 2024 Ottawa REDBLACKS,” Santos-Knox said. “I can’t wait to see our defence fly around, we’ve been putting stuff on film out here during camp, so now we’re excited to do it against another jersey.”