OTTAWA — One of the few relatively bright spots during the Ottawa Redblacks’ dismal 2021 season has been their defence.
When they host the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night, three big pieces of that defence will not be dressed. Sherrod Baltimore (hip), Antoine Pruneau (hand) and Don Unamba (bicep) are all on the shelf forcing others to fill some solid shoes.
“We’ve got some guys who have been here for a long time and we expect those guys to go our and perform,” Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice said.
“Like anything else, next man up. Guys get hurt and you have to play the next play. Those guys had a good week of practice and we expect good things.”
The Redblacks enter the game last in the league with a 2-9 record with three games remaining. Any post-season hopes are gone.
The Stampeders had won three straight to get to 5-5 before losing last week to Saskatchewan, but they are very much in contention for the second spot in the West Division.
“We just want to go out and enjoy the process and go play the Calgary Stampeders and dominate them. That’s what you want to do. When you step between the lines you have to play your freaking tail off, and that’s what we expected them to do each week,” LaPolice said.
One player LaPolice can expect to play his tail off is running back Brendan Gillanders, and he’ll be doing it for the 100th time in his CFL career.
“It’s something that’s special. I walked on in Toronto in 2014 and I’ve seen a lot of cool places, met a lot of cool people and been coached by some amazing people, so yeah, it’s fun.,” said Gillanders.
“In 2014 in all honesty, as a rookie I was just pretty much just concentrating on staying on the roster, so, I mean 100 games wasn’t even really o the radar. You get their one day at a time, one game at a time and they just add up.”
Gillanders is an Ottawa native and played his varsity football at the University of Ottawa with the Gee-Gees. He played on the same field the Redblacks currently play on, but under a different name.
“When it was Frank Clair (now TD Place) it was my home stadium playing for the Gee-Gees for the three years I played at Ottawa, so this field has been home to me for a while, that’s why it was special when I got to come back here in 2016,” he said, adding the Redblacks’ Grey Cup win in 2016 was the highlight of his career.
“I’m very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and working hard. To have that staying power is something that I’m pretty proud of. Winning the Grey Cup. Nothing like it.”
Following Friday’s game the Redblacks will host the Toronto Argonauts on Nov. 6, while the Stampeders will enter into their bye week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2021.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press