Is it possible a team without an owner, general manager and one that lost its first two games this season suddenly has become the favourite to win the East Division?Many media members are now anointing the Alouettes — winners of three consecutive games — as the best team in the division, especially now that Hamilton starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.Montreal players and management, predictably, suggest everyone can speculate to their heart’s content. But they won’t fall victim to the conjecture. The Als’ only focus for now, following their second bye week in the schedule, is Friday night’s home game against Ottawa.The Als haven’t won four straight since 2014, under former head coach Tom Higgins. The Redblacks, meanwhile, are in the throes of a four-game losing streak, including a 36-19 pasting administered by Montreal on July 13.“We beat Hamilton once already. We beat them when they were at their best,” veteran cornerback Tommie Campbell said. “We have to take care of Ottawa first. We’ll worry about all that other stuff later on, down the line.“I’m confident in this team,” he added. “They beat us the first game, we beat them the second. We have to figure out who’s going to win the third (Oct. 26). Hamilton’s not our concern right now; Ottawa is.”Khari Jones, Montreal’s head coach and himself a former quarterback with five Canadian Football League organizations over 11 seasons, watched last week’s game against Winnipeg and saw Masoli sustain the injury on a non-contact play.Masoli’s injury brings to six the number of starting pivots — including the Als’ Antonio Pipkin — already lost in 2019 to significant injuries. Those two have been joined by Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Saskatchewan’s Zach Collaros, Toronto’s James Franklin and Ottawa’s Dominique Davis.Davis suffered a leg injury on the game’s final play against Montreal. Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell said he’s “very hopeful” Davis can return this week.“It makes me sad. It really does. I hate it,” Jones said of the spate of injuries. “These are great quarterbacks and guys that we need them to play. Especially for a non-contact injury like that. It’s just tough.“I don’t know what the answer is. The guys are bigger, faster and stronger. We just have to try and protect these guys as much as possible and hope they can go the whole season.”Jones told his players Masoli’s injury shouldn’t alter the landscape in their minds. He told them to worry about things they can control. This week, that means beating Ottawa. The rest will take care of itself.“We’re just trying to be 4-2,” Jones said. “You never count on anything happening.”Masoli will be replaced by Dane Evans for now. Evans, in his second CFL season, has one career start — the 2018 regular schedule finale against Montreal. Evans was held to 94 yards last week by the Blue Bombers, while being intercepted once. He could only lead Hamilton to three field goals.“I know the coaches there. They’ll do a good job of keeping the guys on task, keeping everybody focused. It’s like that across the league. A guy goes down and you feel for him. But it’s next man up all over the place,” said offensive-lineman Landon Rice, who rejoined the Tiger-Cats last season, following his release by Montreal.
Alouettes offensive lineman Landon Rice.
Allen McInnis /
Montreal Gazette files
Rice has been repatriated by the Als as depth after starting right-tackle Tyler Johnstone was placed on the six-game injured list with a knee injury.“I’ve always liked Dane. He’s a student of the game,” Rice said. “He takes his approach to learning really seriously and to performing very seriously. I know they have full confidence in him. I’m sure they’ll still do well.”The Ticats’ only blemish this season has been the loss to Montreal. They remain a talented team offensively, have a strong defence and always have been formidable on special teams.And you never know; they might actually catch lightning in a bottle under Evans. The Als, arguably, became better once Vernon Adams replaced Pipkin — although the former has considerably more experience than does Evans.“What happened to Masoli is a tragedy. It sucks,” Adams said. “We worry about what’s happening in our locker room. We don’t worry about what’s going on anywhere else.”Adams is loath to suggest the Als suddenly have assumed control of the division. “We’ll have to find out and keep winning,” he said. “Keep playing our game.”Meanwhile, Jones is optimistic injured receiver B.J. Cunningham can return this week. Cunningham practised Monday with a brace on his firstname.lastname@example.org/HerbZurkowsky1