It’s a pretty simple formula for the Ticats to claim a post-season berth: Beat the Argos on Thursday and hope for an Eskimos loss on Friday night.
The first part of the formula needs to go according to plan or the second part won’t even matter. Hamilton, as much as head coach George Cortez doesn’t like using the term, ‘must win’ in Toronto to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
“He knows it,” linebacker Renauld Williams said of his bench boss. “He told us this is a ‘must win’ game if we want to have a chance to get to the playoffs and play for that Grey Cup.”
“We have to take care of our business and then let the chips fall where they may.”
Both the Ticats and Argos head into their season finales on a short week, each team having played last Saturday. However, the condensed preparation schedule doesn’t concern the players wearing Black and Gold.
“This will be the fifth time, including pre-season, that we’ve played these guys,” quarterback Henry Burris said. “We’re up to date with the type of looks and personnel they have and things they like to do on defence, so you’re pretty sure you know what’s going on.”
Another thing Burris is sure about, he loves playing indoors. Super Storm Sandy has brought a steady flow of rain across the East Coast and into the Great Toronto Area. So, the 37-year-old CFL pivot doesn’t mind being inside a dome, out of the elements, for Thursday’s crucial contest. And with Montreal and Toronto locked into the first and second place in the East Division, the road to, and including, the Grey Cup would all be indoors in perfect conditions.
“You don’t have to worry about Mother Nature playing a part in anything,” Burris said.
“One of the things you had to deal with in the west was playing in those frozen tundra like conditions.”
“Now, with this setting, having to go to Toronto then Montreal and back to Toronto for the Grey Cup, it’s all indoors – It’s what you dream about playing in.”
Dome Sweet Dome
The Ticat’s road to and through the playoffs will take place under the dome at either Rogers Centre, Olympic Stadium or both. As a result, George Cortez moved Hamilton’s practice indoors this week for the first time all year.
All season long Cortez had his team practice outside, through sun, rain, wind and cold, to be prepared for any of the elements come game day. However, with the road to the CFL title game, in the East, set indoors and miserable weather because of the storm, he took his team inside for the first time all year during the short practice week.
“I couldn’t wait. I thought we would have been practicing indoors a couple times, but old Cortez he’s not one for practicing inside,” Williams said. “It’s good to get inside, you’re not distracted with the weather – lock in and just focus on the plays and formations that we need to go over.”
Williams and the Ticats defence are coming off arguably their best performance of the season. Hamilton allowed a season-low 325 yards of offence against the Bombers and gave up just 10 points while the outcome was still in doubt. Winnipeg scored a garbage time touchdown with less than a minute left on the clock and connected on a two-point convert.
“The thing that people are not realizing is the only consistent people on defence have been me, Dee Webb…And that’s probably it,” Williams said with a chuckle. “We’ve been rotating the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs the whole year because guys have been hurt.”
“When guys are healthy and able to play the same position for a couple weeks in a row, we started getting a little cohesiveness going.”
Hamilton’s defence won’t have to deal with Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich confirmed Tuesday that his veteran pivot will not play against the Tictas. The Argos offence clearly navigates better with Ray at the helm, but Williams doesn’t care who happens to be behind centre for the Double Blue.
“It doesn’t make a difference who’s playing, or who they’re sitting,” he said.
“That’s smart [to sit Ray] you don’t want him to take any unnecessary hits because we’re going to hit people on Thursday. People are going to get hit. Whoever is going to be back there is going to be running around and they’re going to get hit.”
By the sounds of it, Hamilton will certainly get after whichever quarterback is on the field for the Argos, in an effort to get a victory and put all the pressure on Edmonton when they face provincial rival Calgary on Friday night.
“It starts with us. It doesn’t matter what the numerator is, it’s all about the denominator. If we don’t handle our business it doesn’t matter what Edmonton does,” Burris said. “If we get a victory all eyes are on them and they can’t risk losing that game because if so, they’re at home.”
“It’s definitely an advantage that we play first, put a little pressure on them,” Williams added. Meanwhile, Burris is hoping his former Stampeder teammates can do him just one favour.
“I’ll be shooting texts to some guys like Nik Lewis, Kevin Glenn and Drew Tate telling them to do us a favour. And I’ll try to make sure Dave Dickenson puts in a couple trick plays to help us out,” Burris said with a laugh.
If indeed Hamilton comes up with a win in Toronto, Calgary’s unsettled quarterback situation could help aid the Ticats’ playoff chances. Not to mention the fact the Stampeders are a perfect 3-0 against Edmonton this season.
Opening day starter Drew Tate is recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered in week two. Kevin Glenn filled in helping Calgary secure a second place finish in the tough West Division. So pundits in Cowtown believe Friday’s game against Edmonton could see both pivots get snaps and their performances might ultimately decide who gets the Stampeders starting quarterback nod for the post-season. Meaning both pivots won’t just be going through the motions.
The Ticats 2012 fate, of course needing a win in Toronto first, could oddly be decided while sitting and watching at home. The question is will fans, players and coaches be jumping up off the couch celebrating a playoff berth or slowly reaching for the remote and turning off the television to sit in silence and think about what could have been?
Notes: With one touchdown pass Ticats quarterback Henry Burris would become just the fifth CFL pivot ever to throw for 40 or more majors in a season joining Doug Flutie (three times), Khari Jones, Anthony Calvillo and Peter Liske…No CFL quarterback has ever thrown for more touchdowns than Flutie’s single-season record of 48 set in 1994…Ticats receiver Chris Williams has 15 touchdowns and needs one more to set a new single-season franchise record.