Marv Levy inspires Alouettes, but last home game vs. Ticats meaningless

A visit from 92-year-old coaching legend Marv Levy may have been uplifting but it came far too late to save the Montreal Alouettes season.

Levy, who led the Alouettes to a pair of Grey Cups in the 1970s, spoke to the players and coaches in a meeting room at Olympic Stadium before practice on Friday about being prepared for games and battling back from adversity.

For Montreal, most of the adversity has already happened. The last-place Alouettes (3-12) take an eight-game losing streak into their final home game of the season Sunday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-11). Both teams are already eliminated from playoff contention.

To mark the occasion, several members of the Alouettes side that won the 1977 Grey Cup at the Big O, including Levy, quarterback Sonny Wade and receiver Peter Dalla Riva, are in town for a charity dinner and will be feted at the game.

“OK, you’re going through some tough times, so make the pendulum swing the other way,” Levy told the team. “It’s up to you.

“You can talk about all kinds of magic – special offences and defences – but what it takes to win is to run, throw, block, tackle and kick better than your opponent. And if you work at preparing and if you bounce back.”

The Alouettes can try putting that into practice next season, but for now, they are all on what coach and general manager Kavis Reed calls “audition” for jobs for next year. The Tiger-Cats are in the same boat.

And for some Alouettes, it may be a final game in front of their fans at Percival Molson Stadium.

Receiver Nik Lewis, 35, has not confirmed it but has hinted broadly that it will be his last season. It may be the same for defensive end John Bowman, 35, a career Alouette and the team’s all-time sacks leader. Decisions will be made on kick returner Stefan Logan, 36, linebackers Kyries Hebert, 37, and Chip Cox, 34, and others.

Even 35-year-old quarterback Darian Durant, the team’s big off-season acquisition who has struggled, is not safe.

“Of course I want to play; I still feel like I can play,” said Durant, who feels he is in a similar situation to Henry Burris, who endured a tough season with the expansion Ottawa Redblacks but then led them to consecutive Grey Cup games, winning the second at 41 years old. “I still feel I have a lot left in the tank and I’m going to go out there and prove it.”

Reed certainly wants a younger team.

“We’re going to make certain we cull it as necessary,” he said. “I’m not going to lie and say everyone’s going to be back.

“That’s not the case. We’re going to endeavour to get younger, but if guys are still extremely productive, they don’t have a history of injuries and they fit in the culture, they deserve to be back.”

He may have been alluding to Hebert, who leads the team and is third in the CFL with 96 tackles. Hebert plays like he hasn’t aged a day since his career began with the defunct Ottawa Renegades in 2004. He has no intention of retiring, and vowed to keep playing whether it’s in Montreal or another city.

“I’m having a career high,” he said. “It’s going to be my first 100-tackle season.

“You can’t name another linebacker more active than me in the East. So I’m not afraid of it being my last game. I’m going to play football. That’s not a worry.”

Logan is also having a strong season, although there never seems to be a shortage of returners on the market.

The Tiger-Cats began the season 0-8 but have gone 4-3 since June Jones took over as coach on Aug. 24. But Hamilton’s playoff hopes ended with a heartbreaking 28-25 loss to Calgary on a last-play field goal last week.

The Alouettes were officially eliminated in their last outing, a 42-24 setback at home to Edmonton on Oct. 9. That left them 0-4 since Reed replaced Jacques Chadelpaine as coach.

“It hasn’t been about the streak, our biggest focus is getting back on track and giving our fans something to get excited about,” said Hebert.

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