From Cal­gary to Ed­mon­ton …

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS ED­MON­TON —

A Ti­cat fan in Cal­gary de­liv­ered a type­writ­ten let­ter to de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Jeff Reinebold af­ter a prac­tice ses­sion this week.

It read, in part: “Your fam­ily will also hold you ac­count­able, ask the hard ques­tions and give you bru­tally hon­est feed­back.

“Don’t take th­ese as neg­a­tives. Take them as ev­i­dence,” he wrote.

“Ev­i­dence that your fam­ily is so com­mit­ted to you, so sup­port­ive of you, so loyal to you, so pas­sion­ate about you that we want to see you ex­ceed even your own great­est expectations.”

Reinebold tweeted out a photo of the let­ter on Thurs­day, a day be­fore the win­less Ti­cats were set to play the un­de­feated Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos.

While the tone was re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive, there were also words like “dis­ap­pointed” and “em­bar­rassed” and “mad as hell,” in ref­er­ence to the team’s 60-1 loss to the Stam­ped­ers Saturday.

Re­ceiver Luke Tasker un­der­stands the sen­ti­ment. And while he ac­knowl­edges the Ti­cats have been forced to work at stay­ing pos­i­tive as the losses pile up, he says the player per­spec­tive is unique.

“I’ve al­ways said it’s tough to be a fan, be­cause every­thing is out­side of your con­trol; whereas we can go back and work on things ev­ery day,” Tasker said. “The frus­tra­tion is just dif­fer­ent.”

De­spite be­ing away from home, Hamil­ton had an event­ful week.

Af­ter the shock­ing loss to Cal­gary, there was plenty of spec­u­la­tion about head coach’s Kent Austin’s job se­cu­rity — ul­ti­mately dis­missed by team chief ex­ec­u­tive Scott Mitchell — a de­cent­sized brawl be­tween of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive play­ers in prac­tice; then the hir­ing of a new as­sis­tant head coach in June Jones.

The team has also made an­other slew of ros­ter changes.

Will Hill moves to safety, Dom­inque El­lis is tak­ing over at strong side line­backer, Justin Capic­ciotti starts at de­fen­sive end, and re­ceiver Da­marr Ault­man makes his first ca­reer start. Line­backer Si­moni Lawrence is back, too.

Some­how, the Eski­mos have it even worse. Ed­mon­ton has suf­fered through a run of bad luck that has put 18 play­ers on the six-game injured list, in­clud­ing a half-dozen starters from last week, their kicker and all-star line­backer J.C. Sheritt. Yet, they have been find­ing ways to win.

“I think it’s a badge of hon­our. … Guys are pride­ful that they are able to step in and do the job,” said Ed­mon­ton head coach and for­mer Ti­cat quar­ter­back Ja­son Maas. “If this con­tin­ues to hap­pen to us, and we’re for­tu­nate to be there at the end, hell yeah it’s a great story.”

The Ti­cats have had some re­cent suc­cess against Ed­mon­ton, how­ever. Hamil­ton staged the largest come­back in team his­tory, wip­ing out a 25-point deficit to win 37-31 last July. They also won here in 2015.

The last team to rally suc­cess­fully from 0-5 was the 2011 B.C. Lions, who — af­ter ac­quir­ing re­ceiver Ar­land Bruce in a trade from Hamil­ton — ral­lied to win the Grey Cup that sea­son. Eski­mos quar­ter­back Mike Reilly was a mem­ber of that squad and says it was a trip to Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium with the team at 1-6 that was the turn­ing point in the sea­son.

“No­body ex­pected us to win, all the talk in the me­dia was that if we didn’t get that win, we were go­ing to have whole­sale changes,” Reilly said. “That was what was go­ing on out­side the locker-room. But in­side the locker-room we knew that we had to play a cleaner game and we’d be just fine. That’s what we did.”

That first part cer­tainly sounds fa­mil­iar. A few let­ter-writ­ing diehards not with­stand­ing, pun­dits and fans have more or less left the Cats for dead and will be watch­ing closely to see how they re­bound af­ter the hu­mil­i­a­tion in Cal­gary.

Again, Tasker has a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

“I know how frus­trat­ing it must seem from the out­side. But it’s not as bleak to us be­cause we have a list of things we can con­trol, that we can do bet­ter,” Tasker said. “We’re still fight­ing, we’re still work­ing. There’s not a feel­ing of hope­less­ness, there’s a feel­ing that we’re go­ing to work hard and get our first one.”

He should write that down.

Ti­cats’ Luke Tasker em­pathizes with fans, but says: “We’re still fight­ing, we’re still work­ing. There’s not a feel­ing of hope­less­ness.” Hamil­ton looks for its first win in Ed­mon­ton.

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