When a season goes off the rails, one of the things that keeps fans tuning in — and turning up at the stadium — is a fundamental truth about football as a sport: every snap offers the potential for something unexpectedly incredible to happen. A moment of pure joy that quickens your heart rate and leaves you in awe of another human’s physical prowess.
The 2022 Ottawa Redblacks were a bad football team but amidst all the lousy football, R-Nation was treated to rare moments of thrilling athleticism.
Most of the highlights below are on one side of the ball — not a surprise given how the season unfolded. Other impressive plays that did occur are not included, not because I missed them, but because no easily accessible public record of them exists. Neither the league nor their broadcast partner chose to tweet them out or share them on social media.
Anyways, without further ado, here are the best moments of Ottawa’s 2022 campaign.
Jeremiah Masoli’s 20-yard touchdown strike to Shaq Johnson (Week 1)
— CFL (@CFL) June 11, 2022
This heave to the end zone in the first quarter of Ottawa’s first game of the season was met with jubilation by R-Nation. After sitting through two years of poor quarterback play, their team finally had a proven veteran pivot under centre and this was merely the first touchdown of many. Or so it should have been.
Instead, Masoli only started three more games — throwing just one other touchdown — before a cheap shot to his knee ended his season.
Darvin Adams’ one-handed snag (Week 4)
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) July 1, 2022
In a season that will be remembered more for his drops than the plays he actually made, Adams’ casual one-handed snag was so impressive because it came across as perfectly casual. The same way you would stick out your hand to catch your car keys being tossed, Adams hauled in a 30-yard reception while in full sprint.
Hakeem Bailey’s goal line interception (Week 6)
— CFL (@CFL) July 16, 2022
Clinging to a five-point lead with under two minutes remaining, Bailey’s end zone pick should have sealed the deal and given the Redblacks their first win of the season. Instead, Paul LaPolice’s squad found another way to lose but the play was still impressive.
Antoine Pruneau’s safety (Week 7)
— CFL (@CFL) July 22, 2022
Despite not being a defensive starter for the first time in his career, the 33-year-old Pruneau didn’t pout. Instead, he applied himself and focused on his special teams’ duties with the same hustle and nose for the ball that R-Nation has come to expect from the original Redblack.
Shaheed Salmon’s pick (Week 9)
— CFL (@CFL) August 6, 2022
The third-year linebacker might not be a starter but when he did get on the field in 2022, he frequently made his presence felt. On this particular play, despite being engaged with an offensive lineman, Salmon still managed to tip Bo Levi Mitchell’s pass to himself before rumbling down the sidelines for a healthy return.
The pièce de résistance here is the glorious notched R helmet logo which harkened back to 120 years of Rough Rider history. Look good, play good, right?
Caleb Evans’ shifty touchdown scamper (Week 11)
— CFL (@CFL) August 19, 2022
While it’s undeniable that Caleb Evans didn’t progress as much as some had hoped for in his sophomore season, those complaining about his game cannot grumble about his rushing ability.
As this well-executed QB draw shows, even when given the tiniest creases, Evans has the elite vision to weave his way through defenders. Combine that with his good burst and an affinity for lowering his shoulder and running through initial contact, and it’s no wonder he wound up setting a quarterback touchdown record.
Avery Williams’ pick & pitch (Week 12)
More of this tomorrow 😮💨
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) September 1, 2022
Williams reads this play beautifully to intercept the pass, but what really takes this from good to great is how he is willing to hang onto the ball to draw the offensive lineman in before pitching it out to Patrick Levels for an even bigger return. He got levelled, but the offence’s starting field position improved dramatically. Talk about committing to the bit.
Kene Onyeka’s strip-sack and Coleman’s recovery for a TD (Week 13)
— CFL (@CFL) September 3, 2022
A week after notching an unusual hat trick, former Carleton Raven Kene Oneyka continued to make the most of his occasional reps with this stellar play.
Jaelon Acklin’s superb sideline snag (Week 13)
— CFL (@CFL) September 3, 2022
Acklin’s acrobatic third-quarter grab was a rare glimpse — or rather a reminder — of what could happen when Ottawa pushed the ball down the field. The 27-year-old finished with the fifth most yards in the league despite missing multiple games and languishing in an offence that failed to regularly feature him in its attack.
Brandin Dandridge’s fumble return for a TD (Week 20)
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) October 21, 2022
Once in a while, a player refuses to be denied and simply imposes their will on their opponent. Such was the case with this play in Hamilton.
Dandridge wanted the ball and he would not take no for an answer. The fact that he managed to not only jar it free but also return it 52 yards to the house was the cherry on the cake.
Punter Richie Leone’s fake punt pass to Pruneau (Week 21)
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) October 29, 2022
Any time Bob Dyce is involved with a team, you know the special teams will be solid. Ottawa’s were, but once Terry Williams was traded and teams figured out that not kicking to DeVonte Dedmon was smarter than putting the ball in his hands, the excitement element of the Redblacks’ third phase dried up.
At least, that was the case until the final week of the season, in which Ottawa attempted — and converted — their only fake punt of the season.
Lorenzo Mauldin’s 17th sack (Week 21)
— CFL (@CFL) October 29, 2022
Not since 1992 has R-Nation seen one of its players lead the league in sacks. Mauldin’s 17th quarterback takedown isn’t the most in Ottawa history, but it was good for second-best and set a new Redblacks franchise record.