Saturday’s game at BC Place ended the way it was played.
With the outcome hanging in the balance, B.C. kicker Sergio Castillo chipped an onside kick attempt to near perfect placement and found, not one but two, Lions’ receivers running underneath it. With both their eyes on the ball, Bryan Burnham and Lemar Durant bumped into each other and the ball squirted free for Hamilton to recover.
It was a night where it seemed that neither team could get out of their own way, ending in a 13-10 Tiger-Cats victory with plenty of points left on the field.
B.C. started off the battle between each team’s Jekyll and Hyde personas by recording three chunk plays on their second drive. John White notched runs of 30 and 14 yards respectively to move the Lions out of the shadow of their own goal post. While fullback David Mackie turned a short catch into a 29-yard romp highlighted by an eye-popping hurdle. It was all for nought, as the Lions allowed Justin Tuggle to come free on an interior blitz, crushing Mike Reilly and sending the ball fluttering into Rico Murray’s waiting arms.
Hamilton didn’t fair much better, missing a 40-yard field goal on the very next drive, then just barely failed to connect with a sprawling Bralon Addison to start the second quarter.
The Lions made a splash on the next series, with Wayne Moore taking a screen pass 49 yards before a Hamilton sack forced Sergio Castillo to hit a 45-yard field goal. Then, after silencing Hamilton’s next drive, the Leos failed to take advantage of a 47-yard return by Ryan Lankford, this time missing a 49-yard field goal attempt.
The Ticats responded quickly with an incredible 22-yard juggling catch by Jaelon Acklin and a 25-yard run by Cameron Marshall. Those plays came before Gary Peters broke on an intermediate out route and picked off Dane Evans. B.C. couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and gave Hamilton the ball back to end the half. The Tabbies marched the field and, despite an unnecessary roughness penalty that nearly took them out of field goal range, Lirim Hajrullahu hit a 53-yarder to enter the locker room tied at three apiece.
The second half brought more of the same for both squads.
Desperate to gain consistent traction, the Lions attempted a fake punt early in the third quarter, but Ryan Lankford couldn’t find the space he needed and the ball was turned over at their own 38-yard line. From there, Hamilton easily marched down to the goal line, where David Watford snuck in the game’s first major.
B.C. looked poised to respond on their next series, with Reilly hitting Shaq Johnson twice in a row to make it into the red zone, including an acrobatic 37-yard catch along the sideline. Two plays later, Reilly’s throw was slightly behind Lemar Durant, allowing Richard Leonard to make a one-handed stab that resulting in Hamilton’s second end zone interception of the game.
Both teams fell largely silent until the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when Brandon Banks nearly broke a 41-yard punt return to set up Hamilton at the B.C. 43-yard line. The Tiger-Cats moved the ball into the red zone before two straight drops by Nikola Kalinic and Banks, as well as a holding call, forced them to settle for a 29-yard field goal.
The Lions would struggle to answer on the next drive, but Peters picked off Evans for the second time with just 2:14 remaining in the game. Two roughing the passer penalties against Hamilton kept B.C.’s drive alive and Reilly would find Bryan Burnham in the corner of the end zone to bring the game within three points with just 36 seconds remaining.
Burnham and Durant would collide on the ensuing onside kick and Hamilton ran out the clock to seal their East Division-leading eighth victory, while BC fell to 1-9 on the season.
It was a night to forget for both pivots. Hamilton’s quarterback threw for just 194 yards in the win, to go with his two interceptions. Reilly tossed the only passing touchdown of the game and had a respectable 286 yards through the air but threw two costly interceptions in the losing effort. He was sacked seven times by Hamilton’s defensive front, including a hat trick from stalwart defensive tackle Dylan Wynn.
The Tiger-Cats head into the Labour Day Classic next weekend on a three-game win streak behind their backup quarterback, while B.C. enters their second bye week with more questions than answers as to the state of the franchise.