Ticats take down Bombers, make push for playoffs

No kicker, no problem.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats overcame the loss of kicker Sergio Castillo in the second quarter to post a hugely important 30-13 road win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday night.

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw for 337 yards on 27 for 33 passing with two touchdowns while a revamped secondary held the Bombers to their second-lowest point total on the season. Injuries aside – and we’ll get to Castillo shortly – this was easily Hamilton’s most complete game of the season: in addition to Masoli’s heroics, the Ticats ran the ball nearly 30 times.

Things started more or less perfectly for the Ticats. After winning the toss and electing to receive, Masoli hit Brandon Banks with a 60-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage and a quick 7-0 lead. The Winnipeg made that ‘oooooohhhhh’ sound as Banks crossed the line and promptly put his finger to his lips.

Hamilton was in scoring range on their second possession as well but got cute on second-and-short, throwing a screen to Jalen Saunders instead of just picking up the inch-and-a-half they needed. He lost yardage and the Ticats settled for a field goal.

The Ticats kept coming. Abdul Kanneh forced a fumble on sack of Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols, who injured his hand on the play but stayed in the game. It led to another Sergio Castillo field goal, this one from 50-yards out, and a 13-0 lead.

The Bombers tried some trickery of their own on shortage yardage, snapping the ball through the legs of quarterback Dan LeFevour to receiver Darvin Adams, who promptly tossed to wide open Andrew Harris. It set up the Bombers first touchdown.

After the teams exchanged field goals, the Ticats marched into Bomber territory with under two minutes to go but took a time-count violation when Saunders had trouble fixing a busted helmet and didn’t take a knee to stop the clock. It resulted in a loss of down and forced Hamilton to attempt to field goal.

Castillo, however, missed wide right from 38 yards out and his leg crumpling beneath him as he went to try and make the tackle on the Bomber returner. He stayed down on the turf for several minutes before being carried from the field.

He did not return and rookie Felix Flaubert-Lussier, who was the emergency kicker at Laval, filled in for the remainder of the game. He punted three times for a very respectable 42 yard average – including a beauty inside the 10 – but did not attempt a field goal.

The Ticats weren’t the only ones with injury trouble: Nichols didn’t start the second half, giving way to back up Dominique Davis.

Without their regular kicker, the Ticats executed a perfect onside punt on the opening drive of the third, Masoli booting it 42 yards down the field and Banks falling on it at the Bomber 16. Three plays later, Hamilton punched it in from the one-yard line and led by 12.

Another Medlock field goal trimmed the margin to nine, Masoli orchestrated their second long drive of the second half, running 15 plays over 100 yards and taking 8:35  off the clock. Luke Tasker caught a touchdown pass from four yards and hauled in the two-point conversion to make the score 30-13.

With the win, the Ticats improve to 4-10 – and 4-2 under head coach June Jones – and now trail Ottawa by just three points for the final playoff spot in the East Division with two games in hand. The Redblacks are in Vancouver to face the Lions on Saturday night and face the Ticats on Oct. 27 in a game that may very well be win-and-get-in for both teams.