A few hours before the Hamilton Tiger-Cats took on the Toronto Argonauts in the East Semi-Final, Ticat fan Ryan Maloney captured sent out a tweet that felt just about right: “This game kind of feels like Christmas when you know your parents probably don’t have enough money to buy you the gift you asked for.”
Well Ryan, check out the shiny new bike, the one you can ride all the way to Ottawa.
Justin Medlock – speaking of money – hit a 47 yard field goal with no time on the clock as the Ticats beat the Argos 25-22 on Sunday afternoon at Tim Hortons Field. With the victory, the Ticats will play the Ottawa Redblacks next Sunday in Ottawa for the right to go to third straight Grey Cup.
This was an improbable win and not just because Jeremiah Masoli was making his second career start at quarterback and going up against future Hall-of-Famer Ricky Ray. This season, the Ticats were 0-7 when losing the turnover battle, 0-4 in games decided by three points or less and 1-6 when trailing after three quarters.
Masoli had a terrible start, going five-for-11 for 26 yards and interception before getting pulled for two series in the third quarter. Hamilton head coach Kent Austin put him back in the game and Masoli responded by going seven-for-seven, 115 yards with a passing an a rushing touchdown.
“We wanted to get him out of the game, give him a breather, get his composure and talk through what we were going to do moving forward, just settle him down,” Austin said, while also naming Masoli as his starter next week. “It shows you the individual he is, to respond like that. I can’t say enough about the man.”
The Ticats jumped out to 6-0 lead off two Medlock field goals (including a 55-yard bomb in the first quarter.) But the Argos would score the next 18 straight points and looked to have things well in hand against an anemic Hamilton attack.
But Masoli connected with Bakari Grant on a 41-yard touchdown pass – the Toronto defender fell down – and Argonaut kicker Swayze Waters missed two critical field goals in the second half as he battled the stiff breeze at Tim Hortons.
“I can’t remember in my career feeling like I cost a team a game but I feel like that right now,” Waters said. “Obviously with it being the end of the season, it makes it that much worse.”
Still Waters tied the game with a 43 yarder to tie it with 49 seconds left and it was left to Masoli to orchestrate the winning drive. Even then, he got some help. Argonaut defensive end Mitchell Wright took a roughing the passer penalty with 35 seconds left that, combined with 17 rushing yards from C.J, Gable and a 10 yard completion to Tiquan Underwood, put the Ticats into field goal range.
Medlock did the rest, driving the ball through the uprights.
“I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates and the crowd,” Medlock said. “You don’t know when it’s going to be your last game. I’m a free agent and you never know, this could be the last time I ever play here. I just wanted to enjoy it.”
The Ticats will be playing in their third straight East Final under Austin but took a very different route to get here. The loss of starting quarterback Zach Collaros on Sept. 19 – they were 8-4 at the time – changed the narrative arc of the season. Still, they found a way.
Defensive tackle Bryan Hall said the team took some inspiration at being left for dead after Collaros went down, including this week when many were picking the Argos.
“How is a team that’s never beat us at home, favoured to win? We’ll take the underdog role, we accept that, but not here, not at our house,” Hall said. “I took it personal. And they still haven’t won here.”
Maloney was at the game on Sunday – he’s a season seat holder – and returned to social media afterwards in celebration, his faith restored.
“Parents were broke but it looks like Santa came through for me.”
Notes: Simoni Lawrence missed a good portion of the first half with an undisclosed injury but returned for the final 30 minutes and it was “100 per cent” that he’d play next week. The news wasn’t as good for defensive end Eric Norwood, who was injured in the third quarter. “It doesn”t look good,” Austin said. Receiver Terrell Sinkfield also missed the second half with an ankle injury… defensive tackle Ted Laurent had two sacks…