Win­less in Cal­gary since 2004, Ti­cats go with­out Lawrence

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

You want the good news, the bad news or the re­ally bad news on the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats in­jury front?

Given that the Ti­cats are 0-4 and head­ing to the West­ern slaugh­ter­house that is Cal­gary, let’s start with the re­ally bad: all-star line­backer Si­moni Lawrence won’t play Satur­day night in Cal­gary.

The all-star line­backer has been slowed by a nag­ging lower body in­jury the last few weeks and hasn’t posted his usual num­bers this sea­son. Case in point: af­ter fin­ish­ing fourth in the CFL with 90 tack­les in 2016, Lawrence has just 12 take­downs so far this sea­son. Four Ti­cats have more.

“He’s not 100 per cent so we’re go­ing to rest him,” said head coach Kent Austin. “We need him to be able to play at his peak ca­pac­ity. He’s been hob­bling around and try­ing to fight through it, but we don’t want to risk it go­ing from bad to re­ally bad.”

Larry Dean will move from mid­dle line­backer to Lawrence’s spot on the weak side, while first-year Ti­cat Kavell Con­ner will take over for Dean. Cal­gary will hardly be Con­ner’s first rodeo, how­ever. He played 78 games at line­backer over six sea­sons with the In­di­anapo­lis Colts and San Diego Charg­ers, af­ter be­ing se­lected in the sev­enth round of 2010 NFL Draft. He has 328 ca­reer de­fen­sive tack­les and is also a solid spe­cial teams player.

Still, Austin ad­mits Lawrence would pre­fer to play against the Stam­ped­ers if given the choice.

“Most play­ers that are wired like Si­moni aren’t go­ing to want to sit down. But we’re do­ing it for his ben­e­fit and for ours,” Austin said.

In­jury has ne­ces­si­tated an­other key ros­ter change as well. Of­fen­sive tackle Xavier Ful­ton is banged up and Austin con­firmed he won’t play against Cal­gary, ei­ther. That means La­mar Holmes, who has started two ca­reer CFL games, will move to left tackle, while Quin­ter­rius Eat­mon will make his Ti­cats’ de­but on the right side.

With Cal­gary de­fen­sive line­man Charleston Hughes and Micah John­son tied for sec­ond in the CFL with four sacks apiece — Hughes led the league last sea­son — Austin has brought run­ning back C.J. Gable off the bench to pro­vide re­in­force­ment up front.

“C.J. pro­tects the quar­ter­back well,” Austin said. “Some of the things we’re do­ing schemat­i­cally bet­ter suit his skill set and we feel that, for this game, it’s a stronger line up for us.”

Gable was re­placed by Ross Scheuer­man af­ter the week two loss to Saskatchewan, and af­ter a tough cou­ple of days he found a way to make peace with the de­mo­tion.

“It was hard at first, but I prayed on it and I know it’s not in my hands,” Gable said.

“Why get mad. Why be down? This is my op­por­tu­nity and what­ever hap­pens next game, I’m not go­ing to be mad about it, not go­ing to be bit­ter about it.”

Fi­nally, the good news. Half­back Abdul Kan­neh prac­tised all three days this week and looks set to start at bound­ary half­back. A key free agent ac­qui­si­tion in the off-sea­son, he’ll fi­nally make his Ti­cat de­but.

That should help a Ti­cat sec­ondary that showed signs of life against Ed­mon­ton, but still gave up the game-win­ning drive late. But Kan­neh isn’t the only new piece. Khalid Wooten will move bound­ary cor­ner for the in­jured Keon Lyn and it ap­pears vet­eran Do­minique El­lis, re­signed this week, will be the ex­tra de­fen­sive back.

The worst news of all? Hamil­ton hasn’t won in Cal­gary since the 2004 sea­son — Danny McManus was the Ti­cat quar­ter­back and Matt Du­ni­gan was the Cal­gary coach. The Stam­ped­ers have won 10 straight reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ings against Hamil­ton since a loss in the 2011 Touch­down At­lantic game. NOTES: Af­ter sit­ting out the past three weeks, re­ceiver Kevin El­liott re­turns to the start­ing lineup in place of Ju­nior Collins. … And Cana­dian run­ner Sean Thomas-Er­ling­ton, who had a strong train­ing camp, will be added to the ros­ter in place of in­jured line­backer Nick Shor­till, who has a foot in­jury.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Ex­pect C.J. Gable back in the lineup Satur­day in Cal­gary.

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