While the 0-4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats may have their problems at the moment, the kicking game is definitely not one of them.
Sergio Castillo has been exceptional after winning the job coming out of training camp, hitting all nine of his field goal tries this season, eight of which have been from beyond 30 yards. He’s also made five of his six convert attempts.
While his kickoffs have been less spectacular — he’s eighth in the league with a 62.2 yard average — his punting has been solid, averaging 44.7 per boot (fifth in the CFL.)
“The field goal kicking is going well right now and I’ve felt that groove since training camp,” Castillo said.
“I think there are certain things I can fix in my punting and there are some areas in my kickoffs that I can focus on a little bit more, just be a little more crisp.”
The 26-year-old Castillo was one of seven kickers who attended the team’s mini-camp in April, then beat out three contenders in training camp to win the job. After their first pre-season game, Hamilton reportedly took a run at Brett Maher, who was the team’s kicker last season, but he signed with Ottawa. Maher is 12 of 14 this season, one of the misses coming on 59-yard, game-winning attempt against Toronto.
Castillo says he’s developed instant chemistry with snapper Aaron Crawford and holder Luke Tasker, both of whom have plenty of experience.
“One of the reasons I’m having success is that I don’t have to worry about the snap or the hold,” Castillo said. “Both guys have been amazing.”
Castillo is settling into life away from the football field as well. A Texas native, he’s spent the last three weeks living in an Airbnb with his girlfriend, who will soon head back to the U.S. and her teaching job. They’ve become fans of Saltlick Smokehouse, a James Street eatery specializing in ribs, brisket and fried chicken.
“I wanted to be downtown and experience some of the city, eat in some of the great restaurants,” he said. “I love BBQ and Saltlick beats some of the Texas BBQ I’ve had.”
Despite his early run of success, Castillo says he remains anonymous when out and about in the city. That’s fine with him, given the team’s recent performance and an awareness that kickers generally only garner attention when things aren’t going well.
“If we lose, it’s frustrating — it’s always more important to win,” he said. “I’m happy living on the down low right now.”