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Home opener: Alouettes face defeat by Ottawa Redblacks, 28-13



Well, we now know what happens when the Alouettes play a good team.

The Ottawa Redblacks are a good team. The second-year franchise represented the East Division in last year’s Grey Cup and won its opening game on the road last weekend, at Edmonton.

The Redblacks remained undefeated, toying with the Als Thursday night before defeating them 28-13 in their home opener before 21,522 Molson Stadium spectators. The crowd included former Als head coach Marc Trestman.

Montreal now has a 1-1 record after winning at Winnipeg last Friday. But the Blue Bombers aren’t nearly as formidable as the Redblacks, that much is clear.

The Als’ offence struggled against Ottawa, quarterback Kevin Glenn inaccurate most of the game. And Montreal’s supposedly vaunted defence was incapable of stopping both the run and passing game.

The final score was somewhat deceiving. Ottawa controlled virtually every aspect of the match.

Montreal has now lost three of its last four home openers.

The game got off to a sluggish start, both teams’ offences struggling to generate first downs and produce yards.

Chris Milo missed a 35-yard field goal for a Redblacks’ single point nearly six minutes into the first quarter.

The Als’ defence created an early turnover when Chip Cox forced a fumble following a pass to Brad Sinopoli. The ball was recovered by defensive-back Billy Parker at the Montreal 25-yard line.

A 12-yard pass to Nik Lewis produced the Als’ opening first down – with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter. Kevin Glenn passed 17 yards to Duron Carter two plays later, but the home team failed to produce another first down.

Boris Bede punted for a 52-yard single, tying the score.
The ball drops out of reach of Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Duron Carter, right, as Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Forrest Hightower covers during second quarter CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, June 30, 2016.

The ball drops out of reach of Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Duron Carter, right, as Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Forrest Hightower covers during second quarter CFL football action in Montreal on Thursday, June 30, 2016. Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Glenn temporarily was injured late in the quarter and went to the dressing room. He was replaced by second-year pro Rakeem Cato, who generated some offence. He passed 13 yards to J.C. Beaulieu. Tyrell Sutton then ran for a 12-yard gain. Following a short pass to Sutton, Cato scampered for nine yards, to the Redblacks’ 25.

That signified the end of the quarter and, when play commenced, Glenn was back on the field, running the Als’ offence. He passed 13 yards to S.J. Green – but Green was penalized for offensive pass interference.

Bede eventually was wide left on a 36-yard field goal attempt for a single point at 1:27 of the second quarter.

The visitors rebounded, quarterback Trevor Harris taking his team on a six-play, 75-yard drive that included a 22-yard pass to Kienan Lafrance and a 28-yard run by tailback Travon Van.

Harris found Ernest Jackson open in the flat for a nine-yard touchdown at 4:11. Ottawa attempted an unsuccessful two-point convert, but still led, 7-2.

The Als started their next drive deep in their zone but methodically moved down the field – thanks to passes of 12 and 13 yards to Lewis. Green suffered an injury to his right knee during the series and didn’t return. Glenn found Lewis for a 14-yard gain, but the drive eventually fizzled.

The Redblacks then went on an incredible 12-play, 88-yard drive before halftime. The big play of the drive was a 36-yard swing pass to Van, moving the ball to the Montreal 23.

Jackson was wide open for a 21-yard touchdown but the Als challenged the play and got it overturned. Indeed, Greg Ellingson ran over Parker and was called for interference.

But it mattered little. The Als’ defence, again, was incapable of making a stop.

A dump pass up the middle to Brad Sinopoli gained 21 yards. Four plays later, Harris passed 13 yards to Ellingson for a touchdown at 14:12. Ellingson beat rookie cornerback Jonathon Mincy and safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette on the play.

The Redblacks led 14-5 at halftime after Bede kicked a 53-yard field goal on the final play. Van rushed for 86 yards in the half but suffered an injury and didn’t return.

The Als finally found the end zone midway through the third quarter. Glenn passed 28 yards to Lewis and then found Kenny Stafford for an 11-yard gain. On the next play, Carter went high and made a great reception for a 10-yard touchdown at 7:35.

But Carter, back with the Als following a season in the NFL, immediately went to the Redblacks’ bench and began taunting players. On top of that, he bumped into head coach Rick Campbell, who was steps on the field. While Campbell appeared to embellish the move, he nonetheless was knocked down.

Carter was called for unnecessary roughness, objectionable conduct and was disqualified. It was a heavy price to pay, considering the Als were already without the injured Green. Instead of dressing receiver B.J. Cunningham, head coach Jim Popp dressed a second running-back, Brandon Rutley, on his 44-man roster.

Ottawa defensive-back Jerrell Gavins also was ejected.

That made the score 14-12. Montreal scored another single on the ensuing kickoff by Bede, the ball traveling 63 yards.

Chris Milo gave the visitors a 17-13 lead with a 30-yard field goal at 10:02 of the quarter. He increased the advantage to 20-13 with a 41-yard field goal at 4:21.

The Redblacks then engineered a four-play, 98-yard drive, capped by a 52-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Chris Williams at 8:53. It gave the visitors a 27-13 lead and sent the spectators scurrying to the exits. They added a punt single later.

The Als have a bye in the schedule next week. Their next game is at home, against Hamilton, July 15.


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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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