Quarterback Cody Fajardo threw two touchdown passes and Montreal’s defence stood tall as the Alouettes defeated the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27-12 in the CFL East Division semifinal on Saturday.
The Alouettes move on to play the defending Grey Cup champion Argonauts in Toronto in next Saturday’s East final.
It was the third consecutive year that Hamilton and Montreal faced off at this stage of the playoffs. Montreal also won in front of a home crowd at Molson Stadium last season.
Fajardo threw 212 yards on 15-of-23 completions and also ran 62 yards for Montreal, which beat Hamilton for the fourth time this year after sweeping their division rival in the regular season. Fajardo also had one interception to go with his two TD passes to all-star receiver Austin Mack and wideout Jake Harty.
Montreal’s defence dominated with one forced fumble, two interceptions and several deflections. Linebacker Darnell Sankey led the way with eight tackles, two sacks and a pick.
Quarterback Matthew Shiltz threw 144 yards and one interception on 13-of-23 completions in his first playoff start for Hamilton. He also ran for 34 yards.
Backup Bo Levi Mitchell — a two-time Grey Cup MVP — did not come into the game until late in the fourth quarter. He went 1-for-4 for six yards and an interception. Running back James Butler rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries.
Both kickers were perfect in the game. Montreal’s David Cote went 4-for-4 on field goals, with Hamilton’s Marc Liegghio also going 4-for-4.
With the Alouettes up 17-12 midway through the fourth quarter, Fajardo found Harty with a 14-yard touchdown pass to give Montreal a two-score lead.
Mitchell came in to try and help Hamilton mount a comeback, but faced the same stifling defence as Shiltz. Shawn Lemon sacked Mitchell on second down for a loss of 13 yards with under five minutes left.
Montreal kicked another field goal with 1:18 left after a couple big runs from tailback William Stanback to go up 27-12.
East Division outstanding Canadian nominee Marc-Antoine Dequoy then intercepted Mitchell with 49 seconds left to ice the game, but the action wasn’t over there.
On the next play, Hamilton defensive back Chris Edwards appeared to throw a punch on Harty after the whistle, leading to both sidelines clearing, several penalties, and heavy boos from the crowd.
Hamilton had opened the second half with a field goal to make it 17-9 for Montreal. Ja’Gared Davis then forced a fumble on Fajardo, but the play was overturned after officials determined the Montreal QB had hit the ground first.
Fajardo led the Alouettes just shy of Hamilton’s 15-yard line on the next possession with an 18-yard rush but threw a pick to Hamilton’s Richard Leonard.
Neither team scored a touchdown through most of the first half until Sankey intercepted a tipped Shiltz pass with 57 seconds left in the second quarter at Hamilton’s 30-yard line.
Mack, who had just returned from going to the locker room after a hard hit moments earlier, caught a 30-yard pass from Fajardo on the ensuing play to put the Alouettes up 14-6 after the conversion at halftime.
The Ticats earned three first downs on the first drive of the game, and appeared to get a fourth until Alouettes linebacker Avery Williams tackled receiver Kiondre Smith at the Montreal 30-yard line and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Montreal’s Dionte Ruffin.
After Montreal punter Joseph Zema scored a single, Hamilton moved downfield once again, but the Alouettes defence kept the Ticats from getting in the end zone, forcing a 23-yard kick from Liegghio.
Cote kicked his first field goal after Montreal began the second deep in Hamilton’s end.
On the next offensive possession, Fajardo moved downfield with multiple completions and a 27-yard rush to get the Alouettes 10 yards of the end zone. However, they settled for another kick after a couple Ticats stops.