Als keep heads in game

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Everything Matters. The slogan is written everywhere Montreal Alouettes players look and comes out of their head coach's mouth constantly.

The funny thing right now is nothing matters, at least not the five remaining regular-season games.

With the East Division already clinched, the Alouettes could be going into preparation to host the division final Nov. 22 at Olympic Stadium.

For head coach Marc Trestman and the Als, the task of staying focused starts today at Molson Stadium (11 a.m., TSN), but it admittedly gets easier playing against the West Division-leading Calgary Stampeders.

"This is a mature locker-room, and we have a great leader in our head coach," said receiver Kerry Watkins.

"He challenges us every week, and we have bought in to the theory everything counts.

"Clinching the East and the playoffs, we're not thinking about it right now. We still have this next game. We treat each week like it's our last game.

"Who knows? Some of us might not make it to the final. This is football, and there are injuries and things like that occur.

"We're all together and everyone has each other's backs. If someone is tailing off, someone is there to tell them about it."

One thing that should keep the Als (11-2) on their game is having the Stamps as the opponent.

This is the same group that came into Olympic Stadium and beat Montreal 22-14 in the Grey Cup.

It was a bitter defeat for the veteran group of Alouettes who have lost five of six Grey Cup appearances this decade.

The Als did come into McMahon Stadium and beat the Stamps 40-27 in the season-opener, but this has more of a rematch feel to it.

So Stamps quarterback Henry Burris is expecting intensity from his opponents today.

"For them, there probably is a lot riding on this game," Burris said. "They need to mentally get in their hearts where they know they can beat us. They did beat us in the season-opener, but we've had a lot of success against them here.

"We swept them in three games last year. They want to make sure they can do to us what we did to them last year. We have to make sure that doesn't happen."

The Stamps (8-5) need a win to maintain sole possession of first place after the Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-6) beat the Toronto Argonauts Saturday night.

There is good news for the Stamps in that they will dress the same roster that beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last week as all the nagging injuries went away with extra days of preparation.

The Alouettes make a couple of changes, the most important one being 1,000-yard running back Avon Cobourne taking a seat with a groin injury.

Resting Cobourne for backup Brandon Whitaker is a luxury the Als can afford due to their situation, but they have confidence the rookie from Baylor can do the job.

"The team is being cautious with Avon," said veteran centre Bryan Chiu. "It's better safe than sorry with guys who aren't 100%."

The Alouettes are hoping their competition over the next five weeks sets a good tone so they can follow suit.

Montreal is near the top of every statistical category on both sides of the ball, and they have no real weaknesses.

Motivation may be the Als' only concern.

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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