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Montreal Alouettes hold on for 23-20 victory over Edmonton Elks

Montreal Alouettes' Mustafa Johnson (94) tackles Edmonton Elks quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson (10) during second half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday June 14, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Montreal Alouettes have picked up where they left off last season.

Walter Fletcher scored a pair of long touchdowns and the Alouettes continued to look solid to start their Grey Cup title defence, emerging with a 23-20 victory over the Edmonton Elks on Friday.

The Alouettes are now 2-0 to start the season, while the Elks dropped to 0-2.

“It was a tough, hard-fought game,” said Montreal head coach Jason Maas. “It played right down to the end.

“There were ups and downs throughout the game, but our guys stayed steadfast throughout. They played together and for one another, which is what we do. We pulled out a big victory and we are very excited about it.”

Montreal quarterback Cody Fajardo connected on 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 269 yards and two majors. David Cote kicked a 53-yard field goal for the Als.

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Fletcher found the end zone twice for the visitors.

“It feels great,” said the American running back. “It always helps you mentally when you score touchdowns. But at the end of the day it is a team sport. We can obviously improve in some things. We had a lot of two-and-outs, especially in the third quarter.”

McLeod Bethel-Thompson amassed 300 passing yards for Edmonton and was picked off twice.

“We know we should have won that football game, but credit to Montreal, they pulled it out and made it happen,” Bethel-Thompson said.

Elks backup Dakota Prukop muscled in a pair of TDs on the ground and Boris Bede made two 48-yard field goals.

Both of Edmonton’s losses were hard-fought, close affairs, leading head coach Chris Jones to believe they are about to turn a corner.

“People will call me crazy, but we can play with every single football team or beat every team in this league, it is just a matter of playing our A game,” he said. “We certainly have not done that.”

Montreal started the scoring on its first possession as a long pass up the middle by Fajardo to Kaion Julien-Grant eventually set up a five-yard passing play that saw receiver Cole Spieker get a finger on the ball and then reel it in on the way down for the touchdown.

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Bethel-Thompson orchestrated a competent drive for an immediate response, capped off by a one-yard TD plunge by Prukop.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Elks honour past, look ahead with new 3rd jersey'
Edmonton Elks honour past, look ahead with new 3rd jersey

The Alouettes regained the lead to start the second quarter on a long 53-yard field goal by Cote.

Edmonton knotted the game back up with two minutes left in the second frame on a 48-yard field goal by Bede.

Montreal took a 17-10 lead with 24 seconds remaining in the opening half after Fajardo hit Fletcher with a short pass before he found a seam and turned on the jets, blazing 46 yards for the touchdown.

Maas was impressed by Fletcher’s big-play ability.

“He was tremendous,” he said. “The play at the end of the half was huge. He was stumbling bit still got his balance and made a big run after that catch. Then at the end of the game to seal it and sneaking through and racing to the end zone, those were two huge plays.

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“This year he had to earn that job in camp and today I think he made a statement on why he earned the job.”

Bede booted another 48-yard field goal for Edmonton to close out the first half.

Following a scoreless third quarter, Cote hoped to extend Montreal’s lead but missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.

Edmonton put together a long drive, only to see Bethel-Thompson intercepted at the Montreal two-yard line by Kabion Ento.

The Alouettes quickly turned that into points of their own, as Fletcher took a handoff and blazed 39 yards into the end zone for his second major of the match with 2:18 remaining on the clock. The convert attempt hit the uprights.

Edmonton mounted another strong drive in the late stages and it paid off this time as Prukop went in from short yardage once again with 33 seconds remaining, although it did take three tries from the one to do so.

The Elks attempted to get the ball back on an on-side kick try, but the Alouettes were able to hang on to the ball and run out the clock.

NOTES

The Elks were buoyed by the return of veteran defensive back Lucheiz Purifoy. … The Alouettes’ opening week victory over Winnipeg came at a cost as three players were injured — receiver Tyler Snead, linebacker Tyrell Richards and defensive back Reggie Stubblefield, the latter of which will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. … Montreal came into the contest as winners of four of the past five meetings with Edmonton. Previous to that, Edmonton had captured 11 straight victories. … The Elks are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Edmonton football franchise.

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UP NEXT

The Alouettes return home to host Ottawa on Thursday, while the Elks travel to Toronto to face the Argos on June 22.

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