Hamilton Tiger-Cats eliminate Ottawa Redblacks from playoff contention with victory

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HAMILTON — Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have their mojo back.

Masoli threw two second-half TD passes as Hamilton defeated Ottawa 32-3 on Saturday to eliminate the Redblacks from playoff contention.

The win was Masoli's first this year but also the first in three home contests for the Ticats, who had won 11 straight at Tim Hortons Field before a 23-20 overtime loss to the Montreal Alouettes on Oct. 2.

"We definitely were talking about that . . . giving the fans something they could cheer about and go home happy with," Masoli said. "We've worked too hard not to finish these games."

Masoli left the game briefly in the third quarter after suffering a bloody nose on a seven-yard run. But he returned to finish 25-of-28 passing for 320 yards and improve to 1-4 this season.

It was also Masoli's second straight 300-yard performance. He threw for 361 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-23 home loss to the Toronto Argonauts on Oct. 11.

"I definitely feel like the offence is almost getting to hit on all cylinders," Masoli said. "I hate losing, it makes me sick to my stomach so I'm glad we won."

Hamilton's win tightened up the East Division standings. Montreal (6-4) is first after earning a 37-16 home victory over Toronto (6-4) on Friday night.

"I think it's extremely important that we win this week," Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. "It really wouldn't matter who was on the schedule or what happened (Friday night) or in the standings.

"I thought we played well in all three phases. It's not easy to win games, it doesn't matter who you're playing. You still have to go out and execute."

Hamilton (5-5) captured a third straight win over Ottawa (2-9) and handed the Redbacks a fourth straight loss overall. The Ticats outscored their opponents 24-0 in the second half, a welcome development after relinquishing double-digit fourth-quarter leads in each of their previous two home contests.

On Saturday, Hamilton made an 18-3 advantage stand, to the delight of the Tim Hortons Field gathering of 20,112. Masoli's eight-yard touchdown pass to Jaelon Acklin at 11:40 of the fourth put the Ticats ahead 25-3 and culminated a seven-play, 75-yard drive.

Steinauer opted to gamble on third-and-two rather than kick the field goal despite the Ticats' failure to convert on third-and-short earlier. However, Masoli justified that faith, hitting Steven Dunbar Jr. on a seven-yard completion.

"This was a chance for the offence to step up when the team needed it most," Steinauer said. "It was time for us to take another step to make a timely play on offence when everybody is counting on it.

"You don't know what's going to happen if you don't put them in that situation."

Dane Evans' three-yard TD run, his second of the game, at 13:52 rounded out the scoring for Hamilton.

Redblacks starter Caleb Evans was 12-of-15 passing for 138 yards but also had two interceptions. Since throwing three TD strikes and no interceptions in a victorious CFL debut, Evans has nine interceptions and just one TD in his last four starts.

After throwing his second pick in the third, Evans was replaced by Devlin Hodges. The former Pittsburgh Steeler completed eight-of-16 passes for 49 yards and an interception in his first CFL action.

"I thought (Hodges) saw the field well at times, I thought he used his legs at times," Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice said. "He can process and see things, he just hasn't had a lot of reps.

"We certainly have given the ball away too much offensively. The good teams don't throw interceptions or whatever and we've done that too much this season offensively."

Masoli put Hamilton ahead 15-3 with a four-yard TD strike to Dunbar Jr. at 3:39 of the third. It came a play after Desmond Lawrence returned an Evans interception to the Ottawa four-yard line.

Evans' second interception set up Taylor Bertolet's 29-yard field goal at 10:12, putting Hamilton ahead 18-3. It came after an open Brandon Banks, the CFL's outstanding player in 2019, dropped a TD catch in the end zone.

Jackson Bennett had a two-point convert for Hamilton. Bertolet booted three converts and a field goal.

Lewis Ward kicked a field goal for Ottawa.

Dane Evans' one-yard TD run 58 seconds into the second staked Hamilton to an 8-3 halftime advantage. But it was a costly opening half for the Ticats, who lost receiver Bralon Addison (hamstring), running back Maleek Irons (upper body) and offensive lineman Darius Ciraco (back) to injury - the last two being Canadians.

Addison was hurt following a 60-yard completion and left the game having registered five catches for 95 yards. And Hamilton was already playing shorthanded as running back Sean Thomas Erlington was active for the contest but didn't dress while American running back Don Jackson was a pre-game scratch.

But Evans scored the lone touchdown of the half, capping a smart eight-play, 100-yard drive. Bennett then ran for the two-point convert.

Ward kicked a nine-yard field goal at 6:04. It was a disappointing end for Ottawa considering it was first-and-goal from the Hamilton two-yard line.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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