Redblacks’ Depth Exposed in Loss to Ticats

After a long off-season of waiting and overhauling the roster, the Ottawa Redblacks finally got back on the field, visiting the Hamilton Ticats at Tim Hortons Field. Heading into the game, the Ticats were 7-0 at THF and with a convincing 37-10 victory, remain undefeated at home.


– Chris Williams, Maurice Price, Ernest Jackson, Brad Sinopoli, J’Michael Deane, Tim Mitchell, Jonathan Williams, Zack Evans, Justin Capicciotti, Keith Shologan, Johnny Mark and Justin Phillips don’t make the trip down to Steeltown

– Nothing gets a team ready for a pre-season game like a nice walk through in a local parking lot.

– TSN decides to not air the first CFL game since the Grey Cup (and the first game with the new rule changes) on any of it’s 4 channels, in favour of Women’s World Cup Soccer and baseball, but fan griping on social media was heard, and late Monday afternoon the Ticats step up and came to the rescue when they announce they’d stream the game live via their team site.

– R-Nation was happy to welcome the Iron Sheik into it’s fold

– Ottawa comes out in their black home threads, as the Ticats choose to wear their white road uniforms

– A local Hamilton woman makes musical history when she sings O Canada in slo motion

– Redblacks win the toss and choose to receive


1st Quarter:

– Taking the field for the first time in 2015, QB Henry Burris (#1) quickly connects on a 10 yard pass with Greg Ellingson (#82), who follows up his catch with a drop and then a 7 yard catch, forcing the first punt of the night. Anthony Alix (#76) pins the Ticats at their 18.

– A short Ticat run and an incompletion lead to a quick two and out.


– Khalil Paden (#13) makes a sharp one handed catch, good for 9 yards but RB ChevonWalker (#29) and the offensive line fail to get any push, causing another punt. Alix’s punt sails out of bounds on the 15

– The Ticats put together a scoring drive when QB Jeff Matthews rolls out of the pocket, escapes the arms of LB Travis Brown (#43) and tosses a 73 yard bomb to a streaking Terrence Toliver. Ticats make history becoming the first team to attempt and make a 32 yard PAT and go up 7-0.


– Torrance Hunt (#34) and Lanear Sampson (#89) make back to back catches, good for gains of 5 and 24 yards. On 3rd and 4 on the Ticats 40 yard line, Ottawa gambles but turns the ball over on downs when Burris’ pass is deflected.

– Ticats move the chains twice before Antoine Pruneau (#6) does his best heat seeking missile impression and forces a punt, flying in from the blindside for a 9 yard sack.


2nd Quarter:

– QB Thomas DeMarco (#17) enters the game but quickly leads the offence two and out

– A Redblacks’ blitz forces an incompletion and on 2nd and long, Chase Baker (#91) levels Matthews with a clean hit for a 10 yard sack. CFL officials show that even if it’s pre-season they’re in mid-season from, flagging Baker for unnecessary roughness, despite no contact to the QB’s head. Ticats eventually turn the flag into a 31 yard FG.

– DeMarco and Akeem Shavers (#30) get their wires crossed and cause a fumble, but DeMarco recovers before any damage is done. Matt Carter (#85) drops a pass, gets levelled late and the Redblacks get a first down from the flag. Sampson makes a 15 yard catch but following an incompletion Ottawa punts.

– Hamilton WR Bakari Grant blows by Forrest Hightower (#23) on a deep route for a 47 yard gain. Ticats tact on a 37 yard FG to make it 13-0.


– After a 7 yard gain courtesy of a Sampson catch, DeMarco’s next pass slides through Scott Macdonell’s (#83) hands into the waiting arms of a Ticat defender.


– Ticats waste no time in turning the interception into points as Jacques Washington (#49) has a series to forget, first getting  flagged for a late hit on a sliding Matthews and then getting burned on a 28 yard TD pass.

– The teams trade two and outs and DeMarco shows off his healthy knee when he kneels to end the half.


– The Ticats live stream zooms in on the the gatling machine gun at Tim Hortons Field

3rd Quarter:

– Quincy McDuffie fields the Redblacks opening kick off and rumbles 98 yards untouched to extend Hamilton’s lead to 27-0.

– Danny O’Brien (#5) enters at QB for Ottawa and completes a couple of passes to Jamill Smith (#15) and Shavers, but the drive bogs down with two time count violations and a sack. Delbert Alvardao’s (#48) 57 yard punt is negated by shoddy special teams coverage which gives up a 32 yard punt return.

– John Stevenson (#46) gets beat on a deep route and the Ticats pick up 39, putting the ball on the 1 yard line. QB Jacory Harris sneaks across the goal line on the ensuing play, putting the Ticats up 34-0.

– O’Brien and the offence go two and out.

– Hamilton marches down the field but the drive is snuffed out by a pretty end zone interception by Brandon Sermons (#3).

– Ottawa ends the quarter on the march, with catches from Smith, Hunt, Jake Harty (#8) and a 7 yard run from Kienan LaFrance (#37). The final play of the quarter comes on 3rd and 4 and Harty makes a 14 yard catch to keep the drive alive.

4th Quarter: 

– With consecutive 10 yard completions to Michael (#84) Campbell and Marcus Henry (#16), O’Brien finally break the goose egg with a 15 yard TD pass to Hunt.

– Three Ticat runs = two first downs an a 32 yard FG

– Brock Jensen (#4) enters at QB for the Redblacks, but short catches by LaFrance and Harty aren’t enough to prevent a two and out


– The defence forces two incompletions and a punt

– More short catches by Harty and Smith fail to move the chains, leading to another Alix punt. The Ticats 103 yard TD return is wiped out by an illegal block in the back, sound familiar Steeltown?

– Back to back tackles for losses by Baker and Eric Harper (#96) force the Ticats to punt. On the ensuing return, Hunt weaves his way through the Hamilton coverage and seems to be free, but is tripped up by the 20 yard line for a 46 yard gain.

– The offensive line collapses and Jensen gets sacked twice in a row. Ottawa settles for a 35 yard Alix FG.

– Ticats go two and out and Hunt has another huge punt return, this one good for 50 yards.

– Time runs outs as Jensen’s last few passes fall incomplete.

Final score: 37-10 for not Ottawa


Key stats:

O’Brien completed 11/13 for 93 yards and 1 TD

Burris completed 5/7 for 56 yards

DeMarco completed 5/9 for 38 yards and 1 INT

Jensen completed 3/5 for 13 yards

Shavers had 3 carries for 9 yards

Sampson made 4 catches for 56 yards

Alix averaged 46.6 yards per punt, Alvarado 45.5

Hunt average 35.3 yards per punt return

Pruneau had 2 tackles and 1 sack

Final thoughts:

Well, this probably wasn’t how the coaching staff drew it up but everyone needs to remember that it’s only the pre-season.

At QB, Burris looked sharp in his limited reps but failed to put up any points. DeMarco looked rusty but that can be chalked up to his first game coming off major knee surgery. O’Brien had the best night of the group, leading two promising drives and actually put up points. Jensen didn’t get much help and spent most of his time scrambling or being sacked. The run game was non-existent, with no back breaking a run longer than seven yards or having more than three carries. The only guy who stood out to me was LaFrance, who looked great in pass protection. At WR, Sampson had a very strong game, along with Harty and Smith.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was nice to see Pruneau flying around. If he can pick up where he left off last season, Ottawa’s defense will be in good shape. Other than him, nobody really popped out in a positive way, though it was apparent that Washington and Hightower really struggled in coverage.

In terms of special teams Alix got one more punting opportunity than Alvarado but seemed to have the stronger leg, with his kicks having more hang time. That being said, it’s a moot point if the coverage units can’t cover. Though one TD return was wiped out by a flag, for all intents and purposes Ottawa gave up two kick return TDs tonight. That makes 8 going back to last season, the highest total in the CFL. With the new rules in place, creating even more space for returners, if the Redblacks can’t solve their coverage woes they’ll be in for a real long season.

Though the final score isn’t flattering, it’s worth remembering that it’s only the pre-season, a lot of guys did’t make the trip and that there are positives to be taken from this game, such as the emergence of Sampson, Harty, Hunt, Alix and LaFrance.



Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).