Tiger-Cats don’t want to see too much of Sewell
EDMONTON — Hamilton TigerCat long snapper Aaron Crawford — mildly addicted to the latest video game craze — found a Pokemon Go character sitting on teammate Mike Filer’s lap this week.
“He was on the trainer’s table and I don’t know if he coaxed it there …. I don’t know the whole story. I can’t speak for the Pokemon,” Crawford said.
“I just walked in and saw it. And I got it.”
Unfortunately for the Ticats, Filer’s ability to lure Pokemon to the Ticats’ facility — Crawford also captured one while sitting in the hot tub — will be the extent of his contribution to the team this week. The veteran centre has an ankle injury that will keep him out of Saturday’s game against Edmonton. And that poses a problem. If Eskimos’ defensive tackle Almondo Sewell was a Pokemon character, he’d probably be the rare, lethal and slightly pudgy Snorlax.
A CFL all-star last season, the six-foot-four, 288 pounder is the type of player who requires gameplanning even with a full compliment of experienced linemen.
But with Filer down, the Ticats will go with second-year man Mathieu Girard, making his first career CFL start.
The centre position, with all its additional responsibilities, is a tough one under normal circumstances — never mind having Sewell to contend with. Pokemon balls are unlikely to be much use in slowing him down.
“You have to be conscious of it. He’s going to be a problem for anyone in the league,” said Ticat quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. “The number one thing we can do is get the ball out quickly and after that there are scheme things we can do.”
Masoli’s mobility, a tool the Ticats haven’t really utilized much this season, could also be of use. Otherwise, finding an offensive rhythm — already elusive — will be next to impossible.
Moving the football hasn’t been an issue for Edmonton, with quarterback Mike Reilly averaged more than 400 yards passing a game. Meanwhile, the Ticats defence is ranked No. 1 against the pass. And they use relentless pressure — they racked up eight sacks in last week’s win over Montreal — to get to the quarterback.
Sometimes the predictable things are also true: Edmonton head coach Jason Maas (a former Ticat quarterback who also serves as the team’s offensive co-ordinator) says that Saturday’s game will likely be decided in trenches
“It’s an old cliché, but that’s where the battles are won,” Maas said. “When you feel like that’s one of your strengths and you go up against a team where they feel it’s one of their strengths, something has to give.”
Maas is in his first season as a head coach after stints in Toronto and Ottawa as an assistant. Defensive tackle Eddie Steele says the culture hasn’t changed much after the departure of Chris Jones to Saskatchewan, following the team’s Grey Cup win last November.
“We have some young guys, but we’re a veteran team, so we know how to handle the task at hand,” said Steele. “He saw there was a presence here and he didn’t need to recreate the wheel, just mould it the way he wanted.”
The Eskimos have gussied up their game day presentation on Saturday, bringing in recording artist Flo Rida for a halftime performance and holding a … wait for it … Pokemon event before the game, encouraging fans to come early and chase augmented-reality characters around the stadium.
But don’t expect the Eskimo quarterback to be wandering around staring at his phone.
“I don’t catch footballs or Pokemon, I leave that to other people,” Reilly said, chuckling. “That’s not my style.” Crawford, too, will take a pass. “They can keep their Pokemon. The only thing I want from them is a win.”