OTTAWA, ON – On a night of celebrating the past, the 2017 edition of the Ottawa REDBLACKS came up just short despite a spirited comeback against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Henry Burris was honoured at halftime, giving a heartfelt speech to the 24,901 REDBLACKS fans in attendance at TD Place.
The third-largest REDBLACKS crowd in franchise history watched on and saluted the 2016 CFL Grey Cup MVP one last time, as he was presented with a wooden replica Grey Cup and had his name and number unveiled by Rough Rider great Russ Jackson enshrining Burris on the REDBLACKS wall of honour.
On the field, it was a slow start for Ottawa which they couldn’t recover from despite outscoring the Ticats 15-3 in the second half of the game. Coach Rick Campbell wasn’t looking for any silver linings.
“My disappointment was our demeanour and our enthusiasm was what it needed to be in the second half, but not in the first half,” Campbell said. “To win at this level you have to have a great deal of urgency all the time.”
Campbell said he was honest with his team between halves. “That’s part of my job; having the pulse of the team and making sure we’re ready to go.”
Hamilton had their first lead of the game off the first drive.
Two completed passes and two rushes on Hamilton’s first drive of the game put them into the end zone early, and gave them a 7-0 lead off a C.J. Gable one-yard rush into the end zone on first down.
Starting the second quarter on the Hamilton 18-yard line, the REDBLACKS were forced to kick a field goal. Brett Maher missed wide left on the attempt, giving Hamilton the ball back.
On the ensuing drive, the Ticats reached the Ottawa 46, when Jeremiah Masoli went deep to the left sideline looking for Brandon Banks. The pass was incomplete, but June Jones and his Hamilton coaching staff pulled a successful challenge for pass interference.
The challenge kept the drive alive, and allowed the Ticats to pull ahead when Gable ran the ball in from the two-yard line for his second touchdown of the game. It was 16-1 Hamilton.
The teams then exchanged field goals before the end of the half, but the Ticats held onto their double-digit advantage of 23-7 going into the break.
Hamilton couldn’t complete a pass on the first drive of the second half, forcing a punt to the Ottawa 38.
Diontae Spencer returned the punt 27 yards to put Ottawa in good field position. On the same drive, Trevor Harris found Spencer in the left corner of the end zone bringing the Ticat lead to 10. Ottawa’s two-point conversion was good, only putting them down 23-15 in the opening two minutes of the third quarter.
In the third quarter, Harris was taken down hard on his throwing side. The Ottawa quarterback was forced to leave the game and did not return.
“It isn’t season ending or anything like that,” Campbell said when asked about Harris’s status. “But I think tomorrow will probably be a big day depending on how he wakes up and how he feels. We’re hoping it’s shorter term but we’ll see how that goes.”
With the score at 26-15, Drew Tate was inserted into the game. He found Josh Stangby in the end zone for a REDBLACKS touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
Tate thought the REDBLACKS had an opportunity to come back into the game when he was inserted.
“We just couldn’t sprinkle enough magic dust to get a ‘dub’,” he said. “But there was enough time for us.”
However, the two-point conversion failed when Mossis Madu fumbled in a crowd while attempting a rush into the end zone. This kept the score at 26-21, putting the REDBLACKS down by five.
The only other scoring in the game was a single from the REDBLACKS, after a special teams tackle from Patrick Lavoie at 11:33.
The loss drops Ottawa’s record to 4-7-1 on the season and snaps their three-game win streak.