OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks find themselves in unfamiliar territory, and it feels pretty good.
For the first time this season, Ottawa (3-8-0) is riding a two-game winning streak and would love nothing more than to extend that streak and finally give Redblacks fans an elusive home win, when they host the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.
"We've got to make sure we handle our business," said Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice. "We have to make sure we play and not think about winning the last two games. We still have to work as hard as we can and be as focused as we can to win a game."
The Redblacks have yet to win at home this year, but are chasing the Montreal Alouettes for second in the East.
"We definitely understand that we're good on the road, but we have to do it for our fans in the stands," said defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin. "We need to do it on the road and at home and to get that first one at home would be great."
Saturday's matchup will be a good test for the Redblacks as the Argonauts, making their first trip to the nation's capital this season, are looking to solidify its hold on first place in the East.
The Redblacks beat Toronto 23-13 just over a month ago and have been building momentum in the past two weeks setting up an interesting matinee between the two teams.
Quarterback Nick Arbuckle will make his third straight start for the Redblacks and admits he's waited a long time to get his first start at TD Place. Arbuckle is coming off an impressive performance against the Alouettes where he completed 20 passes and threw for 313 yards and a touchdown.
Arbuckle had signed with the Redblacks in 2020, but with the season cancelled due to the pandemic never got his chance. Ottawa released him before he suited up for a single game.
"I've waited since January 2020 to be a starter here so to finally get that opportunity a couple years later is pretty exciting," said Arbuckle. "I finally got to where I wanted to be and doing the thing I wanted to do so very excited to do that."
Arbuckle is also looking forward to facing his former teammates. The 28-year-old played for the Argonauts last season before being traded to Edmonton.
"I have my own rivalry with Toronto," Arbuckle said. "I feel like whenever you're in a place and they trade you or release you, and I'm sure a lot of guys experience that as it's a small league, but whenever you get to face your old team who decided to move on from you for whatever reason there's a little extra there. I know there’s a rivalry between the cities, but there's a rivalry between us too."
Ottawa's defence will have its hands full with the Argos, but you can bet Mauldin will be looking to make McLeod Bethel-Thompson's day a long one. Mauldin leads the league with ten sacks and hopes to be a difference maker for the Redblacks.
"On a regular basis they call me the Energizer bunny and I'm not going to stop until that whistle blows," said Mauldin. "Whether it's down the field, after a pass, or it's in the backfield, as long as that whistle is non-existent my play continues to go. I just want to be able to help the defence."
The Argos will be without fullback Declan Cross, defensive back Robert Priester and running back Javon Leake.
Ottawa will be without defensive back Sherrod Baltimore as he deals with a hamstring injury, but will have receiver Darvin Adams.
TORONTO (6-5-0) VS. OTTAWA (3-8-0)
INTERCEPTIONAL: Toronto's Jamal Peters has made five interceptions in his last two games, making him the first player to accomplish the feat since Lester Smith in 2000.
1,000-YARD MAN: Ottawa's Jaelon Acklin led all CFL receivers last week and needs just 37 yards Saturday to hit the 1,000-yard mark.
KICK IT: Boris Bede's next field goal will be No. 200 time of the Toronto kicker's career.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 9, 2022
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press