Simoni Lawrence hasn’t forgotten about the last time the Hamilton Tiger-Cats faced the Calgary Stampeders.
Hamilton’s colourful linebacker had a front-row seat to Calgary’s lopsided 60-1 victory at McMahon Stadium on July 29. Lawrence, the Ticats’ defensive catalyst, could only watch because of a leg injury.
“It was super tough,” Lawrence said. “You never not want to be with your team and watch them lose a game like that . . . and how it was (as) Calgary kept putting it on them.
“I didn’t get the opportunity to play against these guys and they’re considered one of the best teams. Being a player you want to play against the best.”
Lawrence will get that chance Friday night when Hamilton (4-10) hosts Calgary (12-1-1) at Tim Hortons Field. The Ticats trail the Ottawa Redblacks (6-9-1) for second in the East Division while the Stampeders can cement first in the West with a win and Winnipeg loss to B.C. on Saturday.
A loss to Calgary and Ottawa win over Saskatchewan on Friday night would eliminate the Ticats from playoff contention. Despite the 59-point margin of victory, Lawrence didn’t feel the Stampeders ran up the score against Hamilton.
“No, it’s professional football,” he said. “If you can beat a team by 100 points, why not?”
Hamilton, which is 4-2 under interim coach June Jones, is coming off a 30-13 road win over Winnipeg last weekend. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw for 338 yards and two TDs and hasn’t surrendered an interception in three games (110 pass attempts).
Masoli was the backup to veteran Zach Collaros when Hamilton last met Calgary. But he said the Ticats haven’t spoken much about that visit to McMahon.
“That was a long time ago,” Masoli said. “I think we’ve proven we’re a different kind of team than earlier in the year.”
Jones said the win over Winnipeg (10-4) gave the Ticats a confidence boost.
“Winning on the road against a good football team is not easy to do,” Jones said. “We pulled it off and that builds confidence, definitely.”
Calgary beat Montreal 59-11 at home on Sept. 29, scoring a TD or field goal on 10-of-12 possessions ( CFL record 83 per cent). The Stampeders are 15-0 coming off the bye since 2005, have won 11 straight regular-season games versus the Ticats and are 7-3 in their last 10 visits to Hamilton.
What’s more, running back Jerome Messam (CFL-high 897 rushing yards), receivers DaVaris Daniels (league’s top rookie last year) and Kamar Jordan (32 catches, 474 yards, four TDs) all return to the lineup from the injured list. Also, Randy Richards comes on to the roster to start at left tackle.
“We’re going to get their best,” Jones said. “But if we want to be the best we’ve got to be able to compete with the best.”
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the CFL’s outstanding player last year, makes Calgary’s potent offence tick. Mitchell has thrown for 3,978 yards with 20 TDs against just eight interceptions for the Stampeders, who are averaging a league-best 29.4 offensive points per game.
But Mitchell’s success is no surprise to Jones, who coached both Mitchell and Stampeders defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis at Southern Methodist University.
“I’ve been a big fan of (Mitchell) forever,” Jones said. “He’s playing like he did in his high school film, making the same plays.
“He’s a great kid and competitor. There’s a reason they’re 12-1-1 and he’s a large part of it.”
Davis has also been solid on a Calgary defence that’s allowing a CFL-low 15.8 points per game. The six-foot-one, 238-pound Davis has 25 tackles and eight sacks, tied with Charleston Hughes and Micah Johnson for the team lead.
“I told (Davis) he kind of reminded me of James (Quick) Parker as an edge rush guy,” Jones said. “He’s pretty special, I think, as a pass rusher.
“He’s going to turn it up for me, I know that.”
Jones said the key against Calgary’s defence is not allowing it to force the offence to stray from its gameplan. And in Hamilton’s case, that’s remaining committed to the run with Alex Green, who has rushed for 237 yards in two games with the Ticats.
“You can’t let them change you and take you out of the things that you do,” Jones said. “We’ve got to do the things that have been successful, which is running the ball.
“You’ve got to stick with your gameplan no matter what the score is otherwise you’re not going to be able to block them.”