TORONTO – A well-deserved Gatorade shower for defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe, general manager Danny Maciocio touched by the strong bonds uniting his team and coach Jason Maas, who just wants a successful final week.
The emotion was palpable at BMO Field as the Alouettes celebrated the prize they had just awarded themselves: the chance to hoist the Gray Cup next Sunday.
If Marc-Antoine Dequoy’s face radiated joy, his head could only recall old memories.
“It’s been 13 years, 13 years!” Last time I was in the living room watching the Alouettes. We’re not going there to lose it,” Dequoy said of the Alouettes’ last Gray Cup victory in 2010.
One of the great architects of this Montreal happiness is Thorpe. His game plan outplayed Chad Kelly and the Toronto Argonauts, who never looked like a team worthy of their 16-2 record.
Thorpe made no secret that the Gatorade shower, started by Shawn Lemon, was delicious.
“It’s wonderful because it’s a combination of the work these players have put in. But we still have a game to play and we will have to do it again. It’s fantastic, I’m proud of everything. They continue to improve week by week. It was a big challenge but they knew how to execute the plan,” said Thorpe, who managed to make Kelly uncomfortable while committing nine turnovers.
In front of the media, Thorpe does not always allow himself to have strong opinions. But he was happy this time when we asked him where he ranked the Alouettes’ defensive performance in his coaching career.
“In the first place!” Oh yes, it happened in such a big match,” ruled Thorpe.
For Dequoy, who set the tone with his rushing touchdown after a 101-yard interception return, this defensive display was worth its weight in gold.
“Couldn’t be more proud than that, winning with defensive dominance,” said No. 24, whose reputation continues to grow.
Quite a contrast when we remember that Thorpe suffered some criticism last year when he inherited the defense during the season.
“Noel was criticized, Cody (Fajardo, fullback) too, and I was not the most popular with the hiring of Jason (Maas, head coach). But what a group, everyone is united and we are seeing results,” said Maciocia.
In addition to these criticisms, Maciocia reflected on the trials of recent years such as the sale of the team and problems off the field. Finishing with such a team filled him with pride.
“In 27 years, I have never seen this. I’m going to my fifth Gray Cup and I don’t know what to expect next week. But I have never seen a group like this – he said in an emotional tone.
“We felt something internally, a little magic, during the week of preparation. The team had such great confidence to face such an opponent,” added the GM.
“This is the most united group I’ve worked with, not to mention their resilience and level of effort,” Thorpe also aimed.
In his role as coach, Maas established the team spirit that reigns among the Alouettes. All his club failed to achieve this season was defeating a powerhouse like Argos.
“We earned the right to big games and the most important thing is coming. But no one doubts that we can win, regardless of the opponent. I’m excited to get back to work because it’s a value that drives our group. We will have to be good to win,” said Maas, who, let’s remember, was fired last year.
Linebacker Darnell Sankey, one of the pillars of the defense and the team, was not afraid to predict that his team would win every game until the champagne popping stage.
“It wasn’t a crazy prediction in my opinion. I’m not sure (whether his prediction inspired confidence in his team), but they believed in me and I do the same for my teammates,” Sankey reacted.
The team’s success also requires acceptance of its role. In that sense, Fajardo understands that he must not work too hard to control his offense. First of all, he has to protect the ball.
“This is the defense of the championship. That’s why I know we’ll have a chance against any opponent,” said Fajardo, who thinks about winning his first Gray Cup long before his stats.