Ti­cats wel­come Fan­tuz back against the Ar­gos

Waterloo Region Record - - SPORTS - Dan Ralph

HAMIL­TON — Andy Fan­tuz’s 2017 de­but comes at an ideal time for the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats.

The vet­eran slot­back will re­turn to the lineup Satur­day night when Hamil­ton (3-9) hosts the Toronto Arg­onauts (6-7). It’s a piv­otal game for both teams, as the win­ner will clinch the sea­son se­ries and im­prove its play­off chances in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League’s East Di­vi­sion.

Fan­tuz, 33, missed Hamil­ton’s first 12 reg­u­lar-sea­son games with a knee in­jury suf­fered last October. The six-foot-four, 218-pound Fan­tuz was the East Di­vi­sion’s top Cana­dian in 2016, with a clu­brecord 101 catches for 1,059 yards and five TDs.

But the 33-year-old na­tive of Chatham said re­turn­ing in time for Hamil­ton’s big­gest game of the sea­son was more by chance than a flair for the dra­matic.

“It wasn’t by de­sign,” he said Fri­day.

“But (it’s) def­i­nitely a hype home game and it’s nice to be against the Ar­gos and (have) so much on the line. “Ner­vous isn’t the right word, it’s (be­ing) ex­cited, anx­ious. I’m look­ing for­ward to that first play and get that first hit, and then just play­ing foot­ball and hear­ing the crowd roar and get­ting a win.”

Vet­eran run­ning back C.J. Gable also re­turns to Hamil­ton’s lineup. He starts ahead of Alex Green, who rushed for 140 yards in last week­end’s 24-23 road win over the B.C. Lions. Ab­dul Kan­neh also comes off the in­jured list to start at cor­ner­back.

Dur­ing his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, Fan­tuz worked in the front of­fice as the club’s co-or­di­na­tor of player de­vel­op­ment. While call­ing the role “a unique ex­pe­ri­ence,” Fan­tuz said his time away from the field made him ap­pre­ci­ate play­ing much more.

Fan­tuz joins a Hamil­ton squad that’s 3-1 un­der in­terim coach June Jones.

Fan­tuz will com­bine with vet­eran Luke Tasker to give Hamil­ton two vi­able in­side threats and com­ple­ment the team’s out­side speed. Fan­tuz’s pres­ence will also give Jeremiah Ma­soli — the Ti­cats’ starter over its 3-1 stretch — a big target to look for down­field.

Toronto is chas­ing a third straight win with a new-found ground at­tack.

But Toronto’s of­fence will be with­out vet­eran tackle Chris Van Zeyl (foot).

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Alou­ettes line­backer Kyries He­bert pulls down Tiger-Cats re­ceiver Andy Fan­tuz (83) last Septem­ber. Fan­tuz re­turns from in­jury Satur­day.

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