Injuries Overshadow Redblacks’ Win

Normally a pre-season game isn’t much get be excited about, but for R-Nation and a young Redblacks franchise, last night’s tilt at TD Place against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally checked off another first; a home pre-season game.


– After a long off-season, R-Nation was more than ready for game day

– Excluding injured players, every Redblack on the roster suited up

– Ottawa chooses to save their new Adidas home look for the July 8th opener and instead dons their sharp looking road whites

– In case you forgot, R-Nation ranges far and wide

– Who doesn’t love a bit of history?

– Easily one of the coolest ways to arrive to TD Place

– DB Jerrell Gavins (#24) leads the team onto the field

– Ottawa loses the coin toss but winds up receiving anyways as Winnipeg defers.

First Quarter:

– Jamill Smith (#4) fields the opening kickoff and returns it 9 yards to Ottawa’s 23 yard line.

– After Henry Burris (#1) fails to hook up with Chris Williams (#80) on a slant, Jake Harty’s (#8) 22 catch moves the chains on 2nd and long. William Powell (#29) rips off a 15 yard run but three plays later is shaken up on the play and needs to be carried off the field. Chris Milo’s (#30) 49 yard FG attempt is blocked and returned 39 yards by Khalil Bass.

– Ottawa’s defence immediately sets the tone by stuffing Winnipeg on 3rd and 1 forcing a turnover on downs.

– A 17 yard Travon Van (#3) run and catches from Brad Sinopoli (#88), Greg Ellingson (#82) and Williams net gains of 7, 31 and 11 yards respectively. Following an Ernest Jackson (#9) drop, another Ellingson catch moves the ball down to Winnipeg’s 12 yard. After Van is stuffed for a loss and a Burris incompletion, Milo’s 21 yard FG opens the scoring.

– Reminded of last season’s terrible special teams, R-Nation groans in dismay as Winnipeg returns the ensuing kick off 59 yards.

– The Bombers run 6 plays but only net 5 yards and settle for a 48 yard FG after heavy pressure from Arnaud Gason-Nadon (#41) leads to a Moton Hopkins (#95) sack.

– Trevor Harris (#7) enters at QB for the Redblacks and proceeds to fumble (but recovers) the handoff with Van. Things go better on 2nd down when he hooks up with Khalil Paden (#13) on a 33 yard bomb. Three plays later, following a Jackson drop, Ottawa retakes the lead when Milo’s 27 yard FG splits the uprights.

Second Quarter:

– On the ensuing kick off, LB Manny Rodriguez (#42) absolutely hammers Winnipeg’s Quincy McDuffie, who to his credit, hangs onto the ball.

– Ettore Lattanzio (#49) tackles Andrew Harris for a loss and following an incompletion, the Bombers punt.

– Burris returns as the QB and leads Ottawa on an 8 play, 35 yard scoring drive, highlighted by Van runs of 2, 10 and 18 yards and catches from Jackson and Harty for gains of 19 and 14 yards. The drive ultimately stalls short of the end zone when a wide open Williams drops a pass at the goal line. Milo’s 38 yard FG makes it a 9-3 Ottawa lead.

– Andrew Marshall (#90) sacks Willy and forces a fumble but the Bombers recover and are flagged for holding.

Ottawa Redblacks' Andrew Marshall (90)stops Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy (5) during pre-season CFL football action in Ottawa Monday, June 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Ottawa Redblacks’ Andrew Marshall (90)stops Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy (5) during pre-season CFL football action in Ottawa Monday, June 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

– Everything goes wrong for the Redblacks as Tommie Draheim (#68) is flagged for procedure, Burris is flagged for a time count violation and a 20 yard Williams catch is wiped out by a Sinopoli interference call. On 2nd and 26 Van picks up 12 yards on a draw leading to Ottawa’s first punt of the night.

– Gascon-Nadon sacks Willy and forces a fumble, but again the Bombers recover. Ottawa stands tall on 3rd and 1, forcing another turnover on downs.

– Aided by a 36 yard DPI call on the Bombers, Burris leads the Redblacks offence on a 10 play, 83 yard drive that culminates in a 7 yard TD strike to Sinopoli. The drive is not without some controversy as Van scores on a 15 yard swing pass but is ruled out of bounds, despite clear video evidence to the contrary. Following the eventual TD, Ottawa goes for and gets the two point convert.

– The Blue Bombers answer Ottawa’s score with a drive of their own, going 30 yards in 9 plays and setting up a 46 yard Sergio Castillo FG.

– Two Van runs end the half.


Third Quarter:

– Winnipeg gets the ball to start the half and five plays later add on a rouge to make it a 17-7 game.

– Harris enters at QB and Kienan LaFrance (#27) at RB. A 33 yard catch and run by Paden sets up a 44 yard FG attempt which Milo pushes wide right.

– The Blue Bombers are forced to put when LB Burton De Koning (#52) smashes Matt Nichols pass to the ground.

– Harris hits Paden, Smith and LaFrance for gains of 7, 14 and 6 yards but following an incompletion, Ottawa punts.

– Winnipeg punts again when Marc Anthony (#43) breaks up a pass intended for Gerrad Sheppard.

– On 2nd and long Harris gets hammered as RB Travis Greene (#32) fails to pick up a blitzing defender who comes in untouched for the sack.

Fourth Quarter:

– A long Bombers drive finishes in Ottawa’s end zone when Qunicy McDuffie hauls in a 5 yard TD pass.

– Danny O’Brien (#5) enters at QB for the Redblacks. A 9 yard strike to Alex Pierzchalski (#18) and back to back runs by Greene move the chains but following a high overthrow intended for Smith, Milo punts the ball away.

– A Martin Wright (#79) sack forces a Winnipeg punt.

– O’Brien hits Scott MacDonell (#83) for a gain of 8 yards before his deep pass is picked off at Winnipeg’s 16 yard line.

– An Emmanuel Graves (#96) sack forces a Winnipeg punt.

– MacDonell turns a quick screen pass into a gain of 16 yards but two plays later the drive stalls.

– Winnipeg QB Bryan Bennett goes to pass but forgets the ball, leading to the easiest sack Wright will have this year. The Bombers kick it away but Dior Mathis (#36) muffs the punt, which Winnipeg recovers.

– The turnover eventually turns into a rouge.

– Brock Jensen enters at QB for Ottawa and mainly hands off the ball as the Redblacks bleed the clock. Milo’s 51 yard punt for a rouge makes it an 18-14 game.

– Winnipeg gets the ball back but runs out of time.

Final score: 18-14 for the good guys

Key Stats:

Burris completed 13 of 21 passes for 158 yards and 1 TD

Harris completed 7/13 for 107 yards

Van had 7 carries for 38 yards

Jackson hauled in 5 catches for 47 yards

Rodriguez made 8 tackles

Milo made 3/5 FG attempts and punted 6 times for 265 yards


“I had to make something up because they were going to give me a delay of game penalty” – Rick Campbell on why he challenged for DPI on Travon Van’s non-TD run

“That’s what I like to do, I felt good out there, running around, taking some screens, having the ball in my hands.” – Jamill Smith on doing more than just returning kicks

“I felt good out there, I was just trying to replicate what I’ve been doing on practice” – Jake Silas on his performance

“I’m fine, I take shots like that all the time. Usually I just get up and say to the defender ‘Man I thought you hit harder than that’ ” – Trevor Harris on his sack.

“This is my art form, some people paint, other people hit people. It was strange from me being out of it last year, but coming back out tonight felt real nice. After a series or two, it was just like riding a bike” – Connor Williams on getting back on the field after missing last season to injury.

Closing Thoughts:

Even if it’s only the pre-season, and keeping in mind that performances should be taken with a grain of salt, a win’s still a win and it’s good to get things started off on the right foot.

Offensively, the Redblacks picked up where they left off last year, when they boasted the league’s best offence. Burris looked sharp and his stats (specifically his completion percentage) would look even better if not for numerous drops. Harris was used sparingly but was productive and orchestrated the hurry up offence just as well as Burris. Both threw crisp passes and were quick with their reads. As for the battle for the 3rd QB spot, Danny O’Brien was an underwhelming 3/6 for 32 yards and an INT, while Brock Jensen’s lone pass attempt was completed for 6 yards. Friday night’s game against the Ticats will go a long way into sorting things out.

With Powell exiting the game after only a few carries, Travon Van made the most of his extended audition, averaging 5.4 yards per carry while also snagging two passes for 10 yards. In the second half, Travis Greene ran hard, averaging 4.1 yards per rush, but also missed a crucial block, allowing a blitzing defender to come in untouched and level Harris. As for Canadian RB Kienan LaFrance, he seemed to be an afterthought, finishing the night with exactly zero carries and one pass reception.

Last season Ottawa boasted four 1000 yard receivers and there’s no indication they won’t repeat the feat this year. The big four (Sinopoli, Ellingson, Jackson and Williams) were their usual productive selves, though it should be mentioned that Jackson and Williams couldn’t catch a cold early on. Jake Harty and Khalil Paden, both candidates for the 5th WR spot, had strong performances. Harty finished the night with 2 catches for 36 yards while Paden had 3 for 72.

Ottawa’s offensive line was solid throughout the night, with the starting unit only conceding a single sack and QB hit in the first half. That being said, Winnipeg’s best defensive lineman didn’t suit up for the contest. Still, it was encouraging to see Alex Mateas and Tommie Draheim hold their own. With Nolan MacMillan’s out due to a wrist injury, someone needs to step up.

On the defensive side of the ball, Arnaud Gason-Nadon came as advertised. His speed helped collapse the pocket and it’s hard not to dream about the headaches he’ll pose when paired with a healthy Aston Whiteside. The defensive line as a group notched four sacks and at times dominated Winnipeg’s offensive line. The push displayed in short yardage was phenomenal, with the Redblacks coming out on the right side of a couple of 3rd and 1 stands. Connor Williams, Ettore Lattanzio and Martin Wright were all noticeable for the right reasons which bodes well for Ottawa’s defensive line depth.

Another player who had himself a whale of a game was LB Manny Rodriguez, who finished with a team high 8 tackles. Rodriguez showed great closing speed in getting to the ball carrier and made a couple of thunderous hits.

In terms of special teams, though Bob Dyce has been working hard in practice to install his schemes and packages, it’s clear much remains to be done. The Redblacks had a FG attempt blocked but also blocked a Winnipeg PAT. The coverage game was porous at times, specifically on kickoffs, while the longest punt return Ottawa allowed was only 12 yards. Jamill Smith got the majority of reps as Ottawa’s returner and was his usual reliable self, cleanly fielding every kick and bouncing back up after every big hit. Dior Mathis also had a few return opportunities but his night was marred by a fumble that set up Winnipeg in Ottawa territory. After Ronnie Pfeffer left with an injury, Chris Milo took over all kicking duties and averaged 44.2 yards per punt. It’ll be interesting to see if Ottawa brings in another kicker if Pfeffer is out long term. All in all, special teams remain a work in progress.

In conclusion, though fans will be happy with win, the weather wasn’t the only thing putting a chill in R-Nation. Watching William Powell go down with what could be a season ending injury was enough to cast a pall over the rest of the night, despite the win. Next up for the Redblacks is a Friday night game in Hamilton.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).