Ti­cats look for a win at home

Up­beat Lions are in town Satur­day

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

Dur­ing the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats’ fi­nal on-field prepa­ra­tion ses­sion for Satur­day’s home opener, there were some smiles and maybe a few laughs. But it was more or less an all-busi­ness af­fair.

A cou­ple of hours later, the B.C. Lions were danc­ing up a storm.

That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a 2-1 team like the Lions, one com­ing off two straight wins against East Di­vi­sion op­po­nents, and a 0-2 squad like the Ti­cats, who are start­ing to show the first signs of the in­evitable strain that los­ing brings.

Here’s what Ti­cat re­turn man Bran­don Banks had to say about the mood sur­round­ing his team.

“I wouldn’t say it’s tough but it’s chal­leng­ing. If we were win­ning, you’d see peo­ple laugh­ing and jok­ing but this is a What-have-youdone-for-me-lately? busi­ness and lately we’re los­ing,” he said.

“Jobs are on the on the line, fam­i­lies are on the line.”

Mean­while, the Lions are en­cour­ag­ing play­ers with vary­ing de­grees of abil­ity — the worse the bet­ter, frankly — to show off their moves.

“We just brought that back. You al­ways got to make things fun, build that team ca­ma­raderie, im-

prove the chem­istry,” said veteran line­backer Solomon Elim­imian.

“It might not seem like much, but the more we can get guys bond­ing with pos­i­tive vibes and en­ergy, the bet­ter it is. I be­lieve it helps win games.”

It’s been an­other chal­leng­ing week in Hamil­ton fol­low­ing last Satur­day’s 37-20 road loss to the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers.

Line­backer Will Hill was sus­pended one game for grab­bing an of­fi­cial — new­comer Keon Lyn will take his spot — while head coach Kent Austin de­clined to spec­ify who, ex­actly, would be call­ing the of­fen­sive plays go­ing for­ward.

Those du­ties had been handed to co-or­di­na­tor Ste­fan Ptaszek to start the sea­son but Austin, who called the plays last sea­son, took over against the Roughrid­ers.

“Play-call­ing is over­rated. There are no per­fect calls and a lot of the calls that are made, if they are ex­e­cuted prop­erly, will be suc­cess­ful. It’s more an is­sue of the ex­e­cu­tion than it is the play-call­ing,” Austin said.

“The rea­son I’ve been a lit­tle cir­cum­spect — I was go­ing to say ‘snarky’ — is that it’s putting the fo­cus on the wrong thing. The fo­cus needs to be on ex­e­cu­tion.”

In B.C., the play-call­ing is han­dled by of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Khari Jones, the for­mer CFL quar­ter­back who got his coach­ing start with the Ti­cats in 2009, a fact head coach Wally Buono was more than will­ing to share.

“I call noth­ing. That’s why I don’t wear a head­set. Khari calls all the plays — at least I hope he does,” Buono joked.

“What’s my job, to mi­cro­man­age two co-or­di­na­tors or to man­age and coach the team? I don’t think you can do both.”

De­spite their tough start, the Ti­cats are tak­ing some so­lace from the fact they’ve started slowly in a num­ber of Austin’s five sea­sons, in­clud­ing a 1-6 open­ing to the 2014 cam­paign that re­sulted in the sec­ond of two straight Grey Cup stints.

“I’ve been through this be­fore and at the end of the day some­thing has to hap­pen for us — we’re at the bot­tom of the bot­tom and it can’t get any worse,” Banks said.

“I think I can do a lit­tle bit more to give this team a spark but I have to put in a suc­cess­ful sit­u­a­tion to do that.”

There is still a sense through­out the league that the Ti­cats are a bet­ter team than their record.

Elim­imian said Hamil­ton’s Zach Col­laros alone is enough to keep the Lions con­cerned.

“Hav­ing an 0-2 start, that’s a dan­ger­ous mind­set for a team,” Elim­imian said. “They are think­ing ‘win at all costs.’”

In­deed, come Satur­day night the Ti­cats are hop­ing they’ll be ones do­ing the danc­ing.

MARK TAY­LOR, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Though the Tiger-Cats’ of­fence has strug­gled early this sea­son, the B.C. Lions say Zach Col­laros still wor­ries them.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Ti­cats’ Kent Austin won’t say who’ll be call­ing the of­fen­sive plays.

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