GUELPH — For the first time in Canadian Football League history, there will be a playoff game in Guelph.
The Tiger-Cats made sure of that Saturday, downing the Alouettes in dramatic fashion, coming back from 16-0 and 23–10 deficits to take the season series and lock up second place in the East Division.
“It means a lot to a lot of people,” said Kent Austin on his team’s success in securing a playoff date in Guelph. “It’s a great accomplishment for the organization, not just on the operations side with the football team, but across the board.”
A huge part of the Tiger-Cats monumental victory was, perhaps ironically, one of their smallest players.
Listed at a generous 5’8″, receiver and return man Brandon Banks scored his first two CFL touchdowns Saturday, one on a 45-yard scamper, and the other on a 107-yard missed field goal return. Banks was brought to the Tiger-Cats to add some much needed speed to the offence and return game, and that’s exactly what he displayed against the Alouettes.
“’Speedy B’ was huge for us,” said quarterback Henry Burris after the win. “That reverse touchdown and then that missed field goal touchdown… those things were huge.”
Playing in his fourth CFL game, Banks had yet to break a big return for the Ticats, though he admits that the timing of his first was impeccable.
“It was a learning process for me, I had to be patient,” said Banks, who was adjusting to the wider field and extra man in the Canadian game. “Of course I was frustrated because every time I touch the ball I want to score a touchdown. But I’m glad it happened now. We’ll be home for the playoffs.”
Banks also saw his offensive opportunities increase with the addition of a ‘Wildcat’ package, led by rookie quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. It was clear from the outset that the Alouettes weren’t sure what to make of the additional offensive wrinkle, with both of the Tiger-Cats offensive touchdowns coming from the package.
“I knew it was something that was going to work,” said Masoli. “I knew if we could get the ball to my guy Brandon and (Samuel) Giguere on the edges they would make something happen.”
But Banks was sure to give credit to his teammates, who have helped him off the field in learning the schemes, as well as on the field with some key blocks.
“All I had to do was catch the ball and run down the sideline”, Banks said with a smile after the game. “It was the other 11 guys working their butts off giving me great blocks, good vision, and a great lane down the sideline. I give credit to the other guys, all I had to do was run.”
Austin was equal in his praise for the effort of players away from the ball, who made key plays in both of Banks’ scores.
“You watch our guys’ effort in blocking downfield… watch the block by Evan McCollough for example” he said. “The other touchdown run by Brandon, watch the effort by Andy Fantuz. Down the field, holding the block, got his guy on the ground. That sprung (him). Just great effort, guys playing to the whistle and playing hard.”
With the crucial series against Montreal now in the books, the Tiger-Cats will close out the season with a game in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers.