MILTON: Crossover history has not been kind to the Ticats

Crossover playoff history doesn’t line up very favourably for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. So luckily for them, there’s not too much of it.

The B.C. Lions, the fourth-place team in the CFL West Division, are about to invade Tim Hortons Field on Sunday afternoon for a winner-takes-Ottawa playoff against the Ticats, who finished second in the weaker East.

We’ve seen this Feline Faceoff once before in the Eastern semis and some Ticat fans are still taking medication because of it.

It was mid-November 2009 at old Ivor Wynne, and Casey Printers – the one-time saviour whom the Ticats had released nine months earlier – came back as a Lion to complete a seven-yard touchdown pass to Ian Smart on the second play of overtime for a haunting 34-27 B.C. victory.The Ticats, in a home playoff game for the first time since 2001, had forced overtime with Kevin Glenn’s dramatic touchdown pass to local hero Dave Stala and a two-point conversion to Marquay McDaniel (now a Ticat again) in the ecstatic final 30 seconds of regulation time.

If it means anything, Hamilton came into that game riding three straight wins but this year they come in dragged by three straight losses.

Much closer to the front of the collective memory bank is the 2016 crossover when the Edmonton Eskimos arrived at Tim Hortons Field and won 24-21 on Sean White’s nine-yard field goal with seven seconds left.

That had been precipitated by then-quarterback Zach Collaros being intercepted one play after he was slammed by the Eskimos’ Odell Willis in what most observers – but none of those in the CFL challenge-flag command room – thought was roughing the passer.

Oh, and look who’s coming back with the Lions on Sunday: yes, that would be Odell Willis.

The Ticats are the only Eastern franchise to have lost two crossover games, but Western teams are assuming dominance, taking the last two and four of the last six eastern semis the West has qualified for.

Before you ask, yes, we have noticed that both those previous Hamilton crossover losses were extremely close. We have also noticed that the Ticats are 1-6 in close (10 points or less differential) games this season.

Three of those have come after Labour Day, including the 35-32 overtime debacle at B.C. Place when the Lions, down eight points, covered 100 yards in the final 33 seconds of regulation time to tie it. Hard to decide between that and the 16-point blown lead in Ottawa three weeks ago as the collapse of the season.

The Lions (9-9) had won six of their post-Labour Day games until they dropped their final two, against Saskatchewan and Calgary. The Lions’ only loss in those earlier seven games was a total (40-10) annihilation at Tim Hortons Field, just a week after the startling comeback against Hamilton. Both times quarterback Travis Lulay was unavailable, but he’s back now with Jonathon Jennings ready to jump in if needed.

Since beating the Argos on Labour Day, the Ticats have gone 3-5, haven’t won at home since the invigorating win over B.C. and have three losses by four or fewer points during that eight-game span.

While the Ticats’ propensity to lose the close ones must be called a trend, the sunnyside-uppers might say they’re also due. They’d also say that the good thing about history is that it’s over and doesn’t have to repeat itself unless you let it.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (239 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.