‘Let’s go home happy’: Caleb Evans’ simple message helped spark Redblacks’ cinematic comeback

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

Hollywood movies rarely feature 3-11 football teams as their protagonists, but the Ottawa Redblacks knew they had a chance for something cinematic on Friday in Montreal.

Down seven in the final minutes, the down and out Redblacks rallied to score a late touchdown — not an easy feat for them this year — before gambling on the two-point convert to come away with a one-point win.

The victory was just the team’s third win of the season, but rookie quarterback commanded it as if he were a grizzled veteran in a championship game. Talking to media post-game, Evans recited some of the star-making monologue he delivered in the huddle to help spark the heroic comeback.

“This is our last drive, let’s score and let’s go home happy. Let’s get on a bus happy, let’s go into the locker room happy. Last job of the season, let’s go and let’s do it big,” he grinned. “The guys responded well with me and we executed well.”

In the end, the result was a 12-play, 96-yards drive delivered with calm and poise from all parties involved.

“Once we got on the field, nobody panicked. We already knew what we was about. We kind of knew what we were going to do on that last drive,” running back Timothy Flanders explained. “We knew what was at stake, but at the same time, guys were going to have to make plays.”

Make plays they did, including Flanders, who picked up 39 yards on a pivotal screen play before grinding the team down to the goal line. From there, it was Evans’ time to play hero and he only succeeded by a hair, extending the ball past the goal line on a desperate third down QB sneak.

It was close, but according to Evans there was no way he wasn’t coming away with the points.

“I saw the third down marker. I knew this is the last down. I was gonna get in the zone regardless and find a way to get in the endzone,” he insisted. “O-line did a good job holding up and I just did a good job reaching over and getting the touchdown.”

It was the final two-point play, a three-yard pass to R.J. Harris, which finally sealed the victory. Uncharacteristic of the usually conservative head coach Paul LaPolice, the Redblacks knew all along they would not be settling for a tied ball game.

“We have a two-point [play] we liked and we wanted to try. We had so much momentum with that nice long drive, let’s finish it right there with one play,” LaPolice said of the decision.

It paid off big time, with the Redblacks closing their disappointing season with an unlikely victory, but LaPolice would have given the same closing locker room speech regardless. The fact that his team was still united and fighting with nothing left on the line was the biggest win of all.

“The message was, whether we win or lose, is that I’m humbled by what happened to our season and our record, but I’m proud of the men in this room,” LaPolice stated.

“The resiliency they had each week, how they showed up and they didn’t turn fingers. They just tried to work to get better and continue to grow. We had some crazy things happen to us, but they stayed together as a team. I’m proud of their character and that’s my message to them.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.