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Ottawa Redblacks reflect on underwhelming season, look ahead to 2022

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks can’t do anything about this season, but the players promise to learn from it for next year. There were few highlights in a 3-11-0 season.

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks can’t do anything about this season, but the players promise to learn from it for next year.

There were few highlights in a 3-11-0 season. 

Closing out with Friday's 19-18 win over the Montreal Alouettes helped the Redblacks feel more optimistic about the future.

"In a season where you lose a lot, sometimes you forget how satisfying winning is because it's so hard," offensive lineman Mark Korte said Sunday.

Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice didn't speak to reporters Sunday, but intends to do later this week.

After opening the season with a 16-12 win over the Edmonton Elks, the Redblacks lost five in a row before beating the Elks again. They didn't win again until Friday.

The Redblacks find themselves looking for ways to turn their fortunes around in 2022.

A few key signings in the off-season could help. A crucial decision for Ottawa is at starting quarterback.

Ottawa has a few different options on its current roster with rookie Caleb Evans and the newly signed Devlin “Duck” Hodges.

The 23-year-old Evans had a solid first outing in a mid-season 34-24 win over Edmonton. He also engineered the late game-winning touchdown in the victory over Montreal.

Hodges played well in his one game, but Ottawa may explore free agency for more experience at that position.

“Any piece will be significant,” interim general manager Jeremy Snyder said. 

“Anything we add to this team moving forward will be a significant piece because they’re a part of us, part of the Redblacks, part of the next step, next phase.”

Another off-season question is whether Snyder, who was named interim GM after the firing of Marcel Desjardins last month, will be making those decisions.

Snyder hopes he is and vows to continue to work as if he will be. He feels he has a lot information to make those calls.

“There was a lot of what went wrong and I think that's pretty easy to evaluate,” Snyder said. 

“What was good about it is we got to see a lot of young guys grow. 

"I got to see a lot to evaluate those guys and see where they're going to fit in moving forward."

Snyder specifically referenced offensive linemen Jakub Szott and Ketel Asse and defensive lineman Kene Onyeka.

"Those type of players that got a lot of playing time that maybe they wouldn't have had in the previous years or normal years I guess is the best way to put it,” Snyder said.

Ten players on Ottawa's offensive line made their CFL debuts this season.

"I think there was a lot to learn," Korte said.

"We talked about a lot of guys getting their first start, getting opportunities that were unique to our team.

"I think that'll really pay off down the road for a lot of guys that have gotten a chance to get real live game experience that they might not have gotten that elsewhere.”

Korte is a player the Redblacks will want to re-sign. The 25-year-old didn't commit to returning when asked, but also didn't rule it out.

A player wanting to return is defensive back Antoine Pruneau, an original Redblack who has played for the club since its beginning in 2014.

The 32-year-old from Montreal says discussions are underway and he’s confident in a return to Ottawa.

Pruneau knows the Redblacks can improve quickly. 

Ottawa posted a 2-16 record in its expansion year before going 12-6 the following season en route to losing to Edmonton in the Grey Cup final.

The Redblacks then ended a 40-year Grey Cup drought in Ottawa by beating the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in the 2016 championship game.

"I don’t see how we wouldn’t be able to get some guys in free agency to come here,” said Pruneau. 

"It’s a great city to play in, so I’m confident that we’re going to bring in the few pieces that are missing because obviously change will need to happen. 

"For the guys that are there right now I think there’s a lot of guys that can have a big impact on our team succeeding."

 This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2021.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press

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