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Thursday, September 15, 2016

CATO LOOKING FORWARD TO FRIDAY NIGHT

HAMILTON - Football will be a welcome distraction for Rakeem Cato on Friday night.

The sophomore quarterback leads the Montreal Alouettes (3-8) into an important meeting with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (5-6) at Tim Hortons Field. The Als have dropped three straight and stand last in the East Division but are just four points behind second-place Hamilton and Toronto and trail first-place Ottawa (5-4-1) by five points.

Cato, 24, made headlines earlier this week when he got into an altercation with receivers Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford during practice. The trio declared a truce but Cato and Carter told reporters Thursday they haven't spoken to each other, a bizarre development between a club's starting quarterback and its top receiver.

Cato and Carter were part of a small group of Alouettes players who were horsing around with the football after Thursday's walkthrough. Following the workout, though, Cato divulged that a close friend was shot to death Wednesday in his hometown of Miami.

"I lost a great friend ... to gun violence,'' Cato said. "Got shot 15 times.

"Life is bigger than football. This is the game I love. This is the game where I want to have fun.''

After speaking with a group of reporters, Cato got snippy with another member of the media in a one-on-one interview.

When asked what was going with his quarterback, Montreal head coach/GM Jim Popp said: "At the end of the day these are personal things and there's nothing I can really comment (on).''

Cato's frame of mind is crucial for the Alouettes considering they dealt veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn to Winnipeg on Sunday. Yet despite the mounting losses and off-field drama, Montreal remains very much alive in the East Division and Popp said his club would get a huge boost from winning this contest.

"We can get right back in the thick of things with a win and take care of our own business,'' he said. "If we can get a road win here and get back home for a couple of games it can set things in the right motion.''

Popp said the incident involving Cato, Carter and Stafford is between the three players and "not a team issue.''

"At the end of the day, whatever business it is, you don't have to like everybody,'' he said. "You don't have to like your boss, you don't have to like your co-workers.

"You come to your place of work, you get your work done.''

The Ticats have their own issues as they're just 2-3 since the return of starter Zach Collaros (knee). Despite the record, Collaros is averaging 362 yards passing with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Hamilton is second overall in scoring (30.3 points per game) but is also leading the league in turnovers (31). The Ticats' defence has forced 27 turnovers (third overall) while Montreal's offence has committed 27 turnovers (third-most) and allowed a CFL-high 35 sacks.

But Hamilton has allowed a blocked punt in three straight games so predictably Ticats' head coach Kent Austin is only focusing on his team's issues, not Montreal's.

"We believe if you're not well prepared and you're not ready to play and you don't execute the gameplan it doesn't matter who you play,'' he said. "You're going to get beat.''

The Ticats beat the Alouettes 31-7 on July 15 in Montreal with Cato at quarterback. Hamilton registered nine sacks in that game but Austin is still wary about Cato's mobility.

"He's a pretty elusive player and he can get out of trouble and move the sticks with his feet,'' said Austin. "He can extend plays.

"We're going to have to be really sound in how we rush and not give him open lanes especially early in the game to allow him to extend drives and those types of things so it's a challenge for us up front.''

Hamilton will have rookie offensive linemen Terrence Campbell and Brandon Revenberg protecting Collaros's blind side. Also, first-year running back Ross Scheuerman replaces injured regular C.J. Gable.

"We use the protections that we feel like we need to use to win the football game and expect everybody to play accordingly,'' Austin said.

(Canadian Press)

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