Ottawa Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice knows that narratives matter in the CFL.
After losing the first six games of the season – despite playing competitive football – the talk around the team was that they were unable to finish games.
That is before they finally put together a complete effort to come away with a 23-13 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday.
“It’s a relief to get the win,” said LaPolice, outside a happy dressing room. “It kind of breaks the ‘You haven’t won a game this or that’, so that’s broken.”
After playing to a 13-13 tie in the first two quarters, the Redblacks (1-6) didn’t allow a single point in the second half behind another good performance by edge rusher Lorenzo Mauldin IV.
“You have to believe you can get this one,” said the linebacker who now leads the league in sacks with seven. “If you don’t believe, don’t go on the field. We had too many close games, why not put one together?
“And that’s what we did.”
It’s an old cliché in sports that you are as good as your record says you are, and despite showing glimpses of being a good team, Ottawa had not found a way to translate that to the standings.
The narrative around the team has taken its first step now towards changing. And it all starts with second-year quarterback Caleb Evans, who had yet another good game after completing over 80 per cent of his passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns
The last of those was to receiver Nate Behar to go up by 10 points late in the game and help secure the win.
Evans showed good chemistry with receiver Jaelon Acklin, who had a season high 144 yards and one touchdown on 10 receptions for the Redblacks. His wide-open grab in the end zone to tie the game at the end of the second quarter was a big momentum change going into half-time.
Ottawa also played well defensively, registering three sacks and a forced fumble, all the while keeping Toronto’s running game at bay, allowing only 33 yards on the ground.
Star running back Andrew Harris did not find his footing as Ottawa’s defence kept him in check, rushing for only 17 yards in nine attempts in the losing effort for the Argonauts (3-3).
Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson had a good day as he surpassed the 10,000-passing-yard mark for his career. He finished the game completing 26 of 40 for 340 yards and one touchdown but was unable to lift his team to a win in front of the home crowd.
Shane Ray and Shawn Oakman combined for three sacks and two forced fumbles for the Argos defence but they were outshone by an inspired visiting team.