‘We believed all year’: Montreal Alouettes soak in stunning Grey Cup victory
The players were beaming Monday morning while descending from the plane in Mirabel, Que., where reporters were there waiting to meet them. A shirtless Mustafa Johnson hoisted the trophy over his head while walking down the plane’s stairs.
“We believed all year,” Quarterback Cody Fajardo said. “And like I said, I think the biggest thing about this team was when things didn’t go our way and we had a little bit of adversity, nobody started pointing fingers. Everybody believed and everybody knew that this year was special.”
With fewer than 15 seconds left in the game, it was Fajardo’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Tyson Philpot that led the Alouettes to clinch an upset and their first CFL title since 2010.
Fajardo was named the MVP after he threw 290 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 21-for-26 completions in the game. It’s quite the comeback for the 31-year-old who was benched and then allowed to leave as an unwanted free agent by the Saskatchewan Roughriders one year ago.
“And having that Cup on the plane ride home, makes all the blood, the sweat, the tears all worth it,” Fajardo said.
It wasn’t just Fajardo who made a triumphant return in the CFL. Montreal came into Sunday’s game as an eight-point underdog while Winnipeg was in the finals for the fourth straight year.
The Alouettes’ surprising victory comes after a few tumultuous years — and the franchise didn’t even have an owner at the beginning of the 2023. The league took over the reins twice in a nearly four-year span as ownership became an ongoing problem.
In March, the team was sold to Quebec media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau. Speaking before reporters, he said he wanted to bring stability and a long-term vision to the embattled club. The Alouettes also lost quarterback Trevor Harris and receiver Eugene Lewis in free agency.
General manager Danny Maciocia didn’t seem deterred even if little was expected from the Als this season. He brought in fresh faces, including Fajardo and head coach Jason Maas after the Roughriders moved on from both.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Maciocia said he wanted to build a team with guys who have “a bit of a chip on their shoulder” and embark on a project that “clearly wasn’t made for everyone.”
This team is strong and united, he added, saying the victory is “so gratifying” — even if it still doesn’t feel real.
“It’s surreal,” Maciocia said. “It’s going to sink in at some point in time.”
Maas, for his part, said he was thankful for being in Montreal and hopes fans are as proud as the Alouettes are right now.
“They appreciate hard work and I think that’s what we did,” Maas said. “We put in the work and we accomplished a set goal of ours from the beginning.”
The city is taking it all in, too. The Alouettes flag is on display at Montreal City Hall and a parade is planned for Wednesday.
— with files from Global’s Dan Spector and The Canadian Press
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