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New Alouettes coach to debut before sellout crowd

Jacques Chapdelaine’s first game as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes coincides with the struggling CFL club’s first sellout in three seasons.

JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail

It is probably no accident that Jacques Chapdelaine's first game as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes coincides with the struggling CFL club's first sellout in three seasons.

A full house of 23,420 will be on hand when Chapdelaine, the first French-speaking Québécois ever to coach the club, makes his CFL head-coaching debut on Sunday afternoon, when the Alouettes (3-9) play host to the Toronto Argonauts (5-7).

"I've got a large family and they're all buying tickets. Maybe that's what it is," Chapdelaine joked on Friday.

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It is the team's first sellout since seating at Percival Molson Stadium was reconfigured and trimmed for the start of the 2014 campaign.

Chapdelaine, a long-standing CFL offensive co-ordinator, made small tweaks to the attack in his first week of practice, but he hopes the biggest change will be in the mindset of a team that has found ways to throw away games it could have won this season.

"I would hope that the fans see our guys playing with the level of energy that maybe we haven't had all the time," he said. "I want to see them overcoming adversity and I hope our fans see that as well."

When team owner Bob Wetenhall and son Andrew opted to remove the head-coach title from general manager Jim Popp last week – a bye week – the Alouettes were on a four-game losing streak and looked to be mired in dissension, with quarterback Rakeem Cato shouting at receivers and then walking out of practice.

As bleak as their season has been, the Alouettes are not out of the playoff race in the weak East Division with six regular-season games to play.

They are seven points behind first-place Ottawa and six behind second-place Hamilton. Toronto is only four points ahead of the Alouettes.

The Montreal defence has been solid from the start of the season and the special teams have been decent. If Chapdelaine gets the offence up to speed, they may have a shot at moving up the standings.

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Cato is set to make a third straight start, with Vernon Adams as backup.

For Toronto, Drew Willy is tabbed to make his first start since he was acquired from Winnipeg. Willy took over from Dan LeFevour at halftime of a 29-16 loss at Ottawa last week, going 16-for-24 for 153 yards and a touchdown.

He will be the fourth starter the Argos have used this season as veteran Ricky Ray deals with injuries.

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