Football season comes early in the Land of the Great White North.
It begins tonight in Canada as the Montreal Alouettes host the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League season opener at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.
The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.
The opener has a local flavor as former Marshall University quarterback Rakeem Cato has his professional debut with the Alouettes.
Cato, however, is not expected to play. Cato made the Als’ roster, but was placed earlier in the week on Montreal’s one-game injured list. The team did not specify to the extent of Cato’s injury.
Cato signed a two-year contract with the Alouettes and holds an option for a third year. Cato is expected to play some for Montreal this season under center along with three-year pro Dan LeFevour.
Cato, a Miami native, took part in the Cleveland Browns’ rookie mini-camp recently prior to agreeing to the CFL deal.
Cato’s longterm goal, of course, is to get a shot at the NFL. The CFL has a long tradition of producing quarterbacks which later went on to distinguished NFL careers. Wareen Moon and Doug Flutie are two.
“The ultimate goal still remains to become an NFL quarterback, but I intend to make Montreal the best team in the CFL and to win championships,” Cato said.
Cato owns the NCAA’s major college (FBS) record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (46).
He finished his Marshall years with most of the Herd’s passing records, including career yards (14,079), completions (1,153), attempts (1,838), touchdowns (131) and total offense (14,918), topping Herd legends Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich.
Cato ranks in the top 10 in major college history in many passing categories, and no. 2 in Conference USA history to former Houston star Case Keenum.
The CFL’s Opening week continues on ESPN2 with a Grey Cup rematch between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the defending champion Calgary Stampeders on Friday.
This season, ESPN television networks and ESPN3, the company’s live multi-screen sports network, have exclusive rights to present 89 games in the United States – including the Eastern and Western Semifinals and Finals and the 103rd Grey Cup championship presented by Shaw – as part of a multi-year agreement with the CFL.
ESPN telecasts utilize production and commentator teams from TSN, Canada’s Sports Leader. Individual player profiles and specialty features, such as this CFL Rules 101 video voiced by ESPN’s Trey Wingo, will also be integrated throughout game presentations.
ESPN televised its first CFL game in 1980 and presented a total of 86 games in 2014.
Most other CFL games not broadcast by ESPN2 will be streamed over the internet on ESPN3.com and the Watch ESPN app.
ESPN’s CFL Television Schedule for 2015 (through August):
June 25: Ottawa at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
June 26: Hamilton at Calgary, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
July 2: Hamilton at Winnipeg, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
July 3: Calgary at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
July 9: Ottawa at Edmonton, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
July 10: Montreal at Winnipeg, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
July 30: BC at Winnipeg, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
July 31: Saskatchewan at Edmonton, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 3: Toronto at Hamilton, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 6: Edmonton at BC, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 7: Montreal at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 9: Winnipeg at Hamilton, 5 p.m. (ESPN News)
Aug. 13: Edmonton at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 15: Ottawa at Calgary, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 27: Montreal at Hamilton, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 28: Toronto at Edmonton, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Aug. 30: Saskatchewan at Ottawa, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)