MILTON: Ticats will face a far different Lions team in the playoffs

Each team will field a modified lineup from the ones it employed during the back-to-back September split but ‘modified’ is a very flexible adjective here.

Does it refer to numbers? Or to impact? If it’s the former, it’s accurate. If the latter, it’s way, way off.

“Modified” means that Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ wide receiver Brandon Banks—who was enjoying, oh, merely a season for the ages before he was injured—won’t be playing against the B.C. Lions in Sunday’s CFL East semifinal at Tim Hortons Field. However, powerful running back Alex Green will.

“Modified” also means that veteran quarterback Travis Lulay, who didn’t play either Hamilton game because of a dislocated shoulder, will be under centre for the Lions, rather than Jonathon Jennings. Plus, it means that Tyrell Sutton, the pounding runner who was a Montreal Alouette until late September, will be in the backfield and, for the first time since mid-July, tackling machine Solomon Elimimian is likely to be at middle linebacker.

Advantage until proven otherwise: B.C.

“He’s a very accurate passer and he’s a tough guy,” Ticats head coach June Jones says of Lulay. “He’s going to stand in and throw the ball. If you have that combination of accuracy and willingness to take a hit, you can play.”

Jennings did lead the Lions through the Cat-astrophic last-minute drive which forced overtime in the Lions’ 35-32 win in Vancouver, September 22, but was ineffective and ultimately replaced in the Ticats’ 40-10 victory a week later at Tim Hortons Field.

Banks didn’t play in the B.C. loss but the following week caught two Jeremiah Masoli touchdown passes.

 “With Lulay, they’ll be going through the same reads,” Hamilton safety Mike Daly says of the Lions’ lineup.

“He’s a little quicker to pull the trigger but Jonathon added that running aspect. So, it’s a bit of a give-take, What’s better than the other, I’m not too sure.”

Elimimian, who had mid-summer wrist surgery, is expected to take back over in the middle from Micah Awe. He had a phenomenal 144 defensive tackles last year and 28 this year before he was hurt in the Lions’ fourth game.

“They were a good team already, especially inside the box,” Masoli says. “And then you add someone like Solomon. Number one, you can’t replace experience. And he’s been in the big games. It’s definitely a challenge for us, a challenge for the linemen, a challenge for the running backs, but I think we can handle it.”

Sutton actually joined his new team at the game in Hamilton for the trip back to B.C. Head coach Wally Buono said at the time he liked Sutton’s hard-running style that’s suited to CFL games late in the calendar year.

Ticats all-star linebacker Don Unamba, who played briefly with Sutton in Montreal said, “You have to swarm-tackle him.

 “I don’t care if you traded for him for games in the summer, fall or winter, he’s a good player.”

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
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.