Medlock kicks Ticats back into East Final

CFL FootballIn the grand scheme of things, it may not outrank Sunter in ’72 or Ozzie in ’98, but Justin Medlock just booted himself into Ticat lore.

With zeros on the clock, Medlock nailed a 47-yard field goal to kick the Ticats to a 25-22 win over the Toronto Argonauts in the East Semi-Final, setting up a date between the Ticats and Ottawa Redblacks next Sunday at TD Place with a Grey Cup berth on the line.

Medlock’s final field goal was the capper on what was a superb outing by the special teams unit. Medlock went three-for-three on field goals, including a booming 55 yarder to open the scoring in the first quarter, and Brandon Banks was excellent in the return game. He did not break one for a touchdown, but he was smart in his returns and gave the Ticats excellent field position whenever they were able to force the Argos off the field. Hamilton won the special teams battle — Argos kicker Swayze Waters missed two crucial field goals in the fourth quarter — which is exactly what they needed to do if they wanted to advance to play Ottawa.

Offensively, it was a tale of two halves. Or, more correctly, a tale of two Jeremiah Masolis. The Ticats started slow, with Masoli barely moving the offense and only mustering six points in the first 40 or so minutes of the game. Masoli did not play well, going five of 11 for 26 yards and an interception before being pulled from the game in favour of Jacory Harris. Harris lasted two series before Masoli was put back into the game, and the time off must have done Masoli wonders, because he finished the game going seven for seven for 115 yards and a touchdown both passing and rushing. He looked like a completely different player, and the one the Ticats will need if they hope to extend their playoff run beyond next week.

While the passing game faltered most of the day, the rushing attack was quite potent. Not only did Masoli chip in with 58 yards rushing, but the Ticats finally fed the ball to C.J. Gable. Gable rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries and was at his best late in the game, with 10 of his 15 carries coming in the second half. Gable made defenders miss, bounced off tackles and fought for extra yards. It was everything you expect when No. 32 gets the rock, and the Ticats will need more of that next week against Ottawa.

On the defensive side of the football, this game belonged to Ted Laurent. The mountain of a man who patrols the middle of the Ticats defensive line was a monster against the Argos, constantly plugging the middle and picking up two massive sacks on Ricky Ray. Laurent was everywhere yesterday and once again proved why he is one of the best defensive tackles in the CFL.

Hamilton’s linebackers dealt with injuries a lot, with both Simoni Lawrence and Taylor Reed missing time at various points of the game, but the Argos running game was not as potent as many thought it would be. Entering the game with two very skilled backs in Brandon Whitaker and Chad Kackert, the though was Toronto would be able to run effectively against the Ticats, but those combined for just 55 yards on the ground. The defense was still susceptible to the short dump-off passes, but they didn’t allow too much in the way of YAC, especially late in the game when they needed to get stops.

But things were not all rosy. Hamilton’s anemic passing attack wasn’t helped any by an ankle injury suffered by Terrell Sinkfield, or the limited use of both Andy Fantuz and Luke Tasker. Tasker and Fantuz had just three catches between them for a paltry 19 yards. These are two of Hamilton’s best receivers and Masoli needs to find a way to get them the ball next week. The injury to Sinkfield, who has arguably been Hamilton’s best receiver this season, is hopefully not too serious, especially when the Ticats are already without stud rookie Terence Toliver. With Ottawa’s talented, ballhawking secondary up next, the Ticats can ill afford to be down another field-stretching receiver.

Another injury that is hopefully not too serious was the one suffered by Eric Norwood. With the way he hobbled off the field, it sure looked like he won’t be available for the East Final, but as with all these things, it is too soon to tell. The Argos focused a lot of attention on Norwood, and Ottawa likely would have as well, so being without No. 40 will hurt Hamilton’s chances of advancing to a third straight Grey Cup.

But yesterday afternoon belonged to Justin Medlock. Much like fans in 1972 and 1998, the people in attendance yesterday will tell their grandchildren about where they were when they saw “The Kick, Vol. 3.”

This kick may not have won the Ticats a Grey Cup or put them back in it, but it extended their season one more week and has given them a chance to get back to the dance.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.