Jeremiah Masoli and the Tiger-Cats host the B.C. Lions in East Division semifinal, and Mother Nature could play a role,
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats aren’t exactly heading into the East Division semifinal on a roll.
Hamilton (8-10) hosts the B.C. Lions (9-9) on Sunday afternoon after dropping its final three regular-season contests. While hardly ideal, the Ticats still finished second in the East standings to secure home field for the conference semifinal.
And in the last two seasons, both Ottawa (8-9-1) and Toronto (9-9) went on to capture the Grey Cup after posting mediocre regular-season records.
But that’s of little solace to Ticats head coach June Jones.
“Our goal was to just get here ... and then to the Grey Cup,” he said. “That’s all I’m thinking about, that’s all the kids are thinking about.
“If you win in November, you win it all.”
Trouble is, Hamilton hasn’t done a lot of winning this season at Tim Hortons Field. The Ticats were 4-5 at home, although one of those wins was a convincing 40-10 decision over B.C. on Sept. 29.
But the Ticats haven’t won since losing all-star receiver Brandon Banks (94 catches, 1,423 yards, 11 TDs) to a seasonending broken clavicle in a 3531road loss to Ottawa on Oct.19.
Hamilton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has enjoyed a solid ’18 season — his first full campaign as a CFL starter — with 5,209 passing yards to secure the East nomination for the league’s most outstanding player award. Yet Banks had be- come a trusted target for Masoli. However, something both teams could have to contend with is Mother Nature. It’s been a cool, windy and wet week in Hamilton and Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 3 C with15 kilometre-an-hour winds and a 40 per cent chance of snow.
B.C. plays its home games in a dome. But the Lions practised outdoors Friday at Ron Joyce Stadium and head coach Wally Buono, who’ll retire at season’s end, doesn’t believe weather will be a factor.
“The big thing is the mental preparation,” he said. “The guys have come in earlier, we’ve practised earlier, we’ve met earlier, it’s all part of getting them used to eastern time.
“I think it’s important to practise in the environment that you’re going to play in … the guys got used to the elements.” But wind can wreak havoc with the kicking game, putting extra pressure on Hamilton’s Lirim Hajrullahu and B.C.’s Ty Long. Jones, a former quarterback, said breezy conditions can impact game plans and play calls.
“Depending on (which direction) the wind is blowing, I will take into consideration what types of routes I throw to the right and what types of routes I throw to the left,” Jones said. “If it’s a left-to-right wind you’re going to catch certain passes to the right and we’ll throw certain things (the other) way.”
With Masoli behind centre, Hamilton’s offence averaged 405.6 total yards per game (first overall) and 310.7 yards passing (No. 2). But B.C.’s defence finished tied for most sacks (45) and was ranked second against the pass (247.2 yards).
No crossover squad has ever reached the Grey Cup since the concept’s introduction in 1996.