DOG DAYS FOR TIGER-CATS:

Play­ers try to stay pos­i­tive af­ter hu­mil­i­at­ing 60-1 loss, fo­cus on un­beaten Eski­mos

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS CAL­GARY —

Ernest Manning High School, where the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats are prac­tis­ing this week, is a per­fectly nice fa­cil­ity nes­tled in an af­flu­ent sub­urb about a 20-minute drive from down­town Cal­gary.

But last sea­son its foot­ball team went 0-6, fin­ished dead last in its league and was outscored by its op­po­nents 20 to 202.

In other words, it’s the per­fect place for the Ti­cats.

Com­ing off last Satur­day’s de­ba­cle against the Stam­ped­ers in which they were beaten 60-1 — the sec­ond worst de­feat in fran­chise his­tory — the team now faces the un­en­vi­able tasks of a) re­cov­er­ing from their ut­ter hu­mil­i­a­tion b) block­ing out the mael­strom of neg­a­tiv­ity em­a­nat­ing from the fan base back in Hamil­ton and c) pre­par­ing for an Ed­mon­ton team that’s a per­fect 5-0.

The heal­ing process started Sun­day when play­ers had a day to them­selves. Roughly a dozen of them, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros, re­ceiver Luke Tasker and of­fen­sive line­man Ryan Bomben and Mike Filer, rented a van and spent the day at Lake Louise, a two-hour drive west of the city. “You got to keep hav­ing fun in a sit­u­a­tion like this, if you don’t things just keep get­ting worse,” Tasker said. “But even if you win the bat­tle to be pos­i­tive ev­ery day, we still have to win a game.”

It cer­tainly wasn’t an off day for head coach Kent Austin and the rest of his staff, who re­mained at the ho­tel to review the game film — then hope­fully burn­ing it — while also be­gin­ning their prepa­ra­tion for the show­down with the Eski­mos next Fri­day.

“The game snow­balled on us. We gave up five big plays al­most in a row in all three phases. Can’t do that against a re­ally good foot­ball team,” he said.

“We were not a good foot­ball team. We’ll be bet­ter this week.”

Austin faced more ques­tions about his job se­cu­rity on Mon­day as well as queries on the sta­tus of his re­la­tion­ship with team owner Bob Young and CEO Scott Mitchell.

loss and Austin said the pair have been “very pos­i­tive, very sup­port­ive.” But he bris­tled at a fol­lowup ques­tion.

“How much more you want to harp on this?” Austin said. “I’m fo­cused on do­ing the best job I can do for th­ese guys and they are sup­port­ive. When that changes, if it ever changes, I will let you know.”

Speak­ing of changes, there’s likely to be some ros­ter shuf­fling be­fore the con­test against Ed­mon­ton. De­fen­sive back Ab­dul Kan­neh was in­jured against Cal­gary and is ex­pected to miss sev­eral weeks — yes, it was his first game as a Ti­cat — while linebacker Si­moni Lawrence looks set to re­turn af­ter miss­ing the Mas­sacre at McMa­hon.

Lawrence was his usual ef­fer­ves­cent self at prac­tice on Mon­day, in keep­ing with his per­son­al­ity.

“The best thing to shake off th­ese losses to do is for ev­ery­body to be your­self, don’t wa­ver from who you are,” he said.

While cer­tainly aware of the neg­a­tiv­ity sur­round­ing the club at the mo­ment — the red hot Twit­ter fire di­rected at this team at the mo­ment is hard to miss — the vet­eran linebacker has kept his sense of hu­mour. As bad as the Ti­cats have been, the East Di­vi­sion’s ter­ri­ble record against the West has al­lowed them to stay in the play­off race. “We’re 0-5 and two games out of sec­ond place,” Lawrence said, laugh­ing hard. “It’s crazy, man.”

Funny stuff. At least for now. NOTES: Af­ter miss­ing the first five games of the sea­son, de­fen­sive backs Emanuel Davis and Craig But­ler re­turned to prac­tice on Mon­day, but are still likely a cou­ple of weeks from re­turn­ing to the line up . ... The team also added Amer­i­can de­fen­sive back Don Unamba to the prac­tice ros­ter. Unamba, 28, has played in parts of three sea­sons with the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers (2014), Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers (’15) and Mon­treal Alou­ettes, regis­ter­ing 51 de­fen­sive tack­les, 33 special-teams tack­les and one in­ter­cep­tion . ... Cana­dian wide re­ceiver Ja­cob Scar­fone has re­turned to the Univer­sity of Guelph for the 2017 U Sports sea­son. Scar­fone was se­lected by Hamil­ton in the sixth round, 47th over­all, in the 2017 CFL draft last May.

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