After a long off-season, filled with acquisitions and headlines from the front office the Ottawa Redblacks hit the field for the first time on Friday night.
It may seem weird to say it, especially after the past two seasons, but they did indeed come away with the victory over the Toronto Argonauts.
From the quarterback room led by veteran Jeremiah Masoli, to the running game sparked by hometown hero Jackson Bennett, to the stacked receiving core, all the way through the defence filled with fan favourites and the special teams group looking for a DeVonte Dedmon replacement, Friday night was a great time for all Redblacks fans to take a look at what their favourite team may look like this upcoming season.
What was displayed on the field at TD Place on Friday night, well, was a lot of different things.
Starting with the new quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli; he looked great in the new colours and fit right into the mix at TD Place. He threw for 105 yards and connected with his former Tiger Cats teammate Jaelon Acklin for a 8 yard score. Although there were a couple of instances where he did have opportunities to take off and run, Masoli looked comfortable in the pocket, and previewed a great connection he’ll have with second year receiver Ryan Davis this season.
Davis caught all three of his targets for a total 45 yards and overall made it look easy, helping the rest of the receiving core catch on. Rookie receiver Siaosi Mariner caught one pass for 20 yards and should be a player to keep eyes on alongside other new CFL receivers Brandon Arcando, and Justin Hardy. Veteran CFL receivers R.J Harris, Jaelon Acklin, B.J Cunningham, and Shaq Johnson were also suited up for the pre-season action at TD Place. Among the group it was R.J Harris that stole the show later in the game with 4 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown which put the Redblacks in the game.
That R.J Harris touchdown was thrown by Tyrie Adams who came into the game following a 2nd and 3rd quarter of Caleb Evans’ playing time. Adams really showed a lot of great things in his CFL debut. Despite throwing a pick six, he was able to use his ability to run, and bounced back from the interception, throwing that touchdown to R.J Harris and running in for a score as well, which had been set up by a big 40 yard run from hometown hero Jackson Bennett who signed with Ottawa during the off-season.
On the other side of the football, the defence really looked solid. Mike Benevides is building off of any success he had in the capital last season, and is in for a big year with his defence. Defensive linemen Jhaustin Thomas, Tre Hornbuckle and Davon Coleman each made a sack, while Avery Williams and Trumaine Washington found themselves in the stat sheet with interceptions as well.
When the starters were in for the first half, R-Nation got a look at their favourite player; Sherrod Baltimore as he begins what could be his biggest season yet. He, alongside his partner in the secondary Abdul Kanneh at half back looked great. Baltimore locked down each receiver he lined up against and did his job, even forcing Toronto quarterback Antonio Pipkin to hold on to the ball in a couple of plays, forcing an offensive holding call on one, and reading a wide receiver screen which went for negative yards because of perfect execution on Baltimore’s end.
It was a great start to a big year for Baltimore, and hopefully R-Nation can say the same thing about a couple of good returns they saw from both Terry Williams and Byron Marshall as Bob Dyce and company search for DeVonte Dedmon’s replacement in the capital.
The Redblacks will play their second of two pre-season games on Thursday in Montreal and then will be heading off to Winnipeg for their season debut on June 10th to take on the defending Grey Cup Champions.