Ticats top Riders to open the CFL regular season

Grant Deme

It was just the fifth time in CFL history that new head coaches debuted against one another, but in the end, it was Orlondo Steinhauer’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats taking down Craig Dickenson’s Saskatchewan Roughriders 23-17.

It took just three plays from scrimmage before the first dirty hit of 2019.

Veteran linebacker Simoni Lawrence targeted Riders Zach Collaros’ head as he was sliding onto the turf. Collaros walked off the field under his own power, but the former Ticat has a long history of concussions. He did not return to the game.

Lawrence was not ejected and went to on make a crucial interception late in the fourth to add insult to (literal) injury.

Two plays after Lawrence’s hit, Delvin Breaux Sr. popped William Powell long after a pass fell incomplete. Powell didn’t miss a play and made the most of his touches, rushing for 104 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.

Thanks to new rules in place, those plays resulted in 50 yards of penalties and put the Riders on the door step, with Cody Fajardo running it from the two-yard line for the first major of the CFL season.

The second quarter started off with a bang as Jeremiah Masoli found Brandon Banks for the first time this year for a 41-yard touchdown pass down the sideline. That gave the Ticats a 10-7 lead. Banks led the game in receiving yards with 77.

Masoli finished with 169 yards on 17-for-28 passing and a touchdown.

Running back Sean Thomas-Erlington showed why he won the starting job out of training camp for Hamilton. The Montreal native and Carabins alum rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries plus 35 more yards in the air, though he left the game midway through the fourth quarter following a collision. The trainers appeared to be assessing his left shoulder after the play.

The Riders’ offence responded inside the three minute warning, as Powell powered it up the middle after an 11-play drive. That gave the Green & White a three-point lead following a missed point after.

Defence led the charge for most of this contest and the storyline was the same until an explosion play on special teams from the Ticats.

Returner Frankie Williams took a Jon Ryan punt 67 yards to the house, taking the lead back with six minutes to play in the third quarter. Williams appears primed to handle most of the returning duties in Hamilton with Banks checking in on occasion.

A 39-yard field goal later put Hamilton up seven heading into the fourth with Riders’ rookie Isaac Harker behind centre to start the final quarter.

The 23-year-old came in as Fajardo struggled through the air. He was pulled after taking a big hit, though his numbers — 9-for-17 passes on 66 yards — failed to leap off the page.

Harker made the most of his night as he connected on 8 of 14 pass attempts for 128 yards but couldn’t find the end zone. He threw two late interceptions as he tried to complete the comeback. 

The Roughriders will be featured on Thursday Night Football again next week in Ottawa while Hamilton is scheduled to face Toronto on the road.

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