The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made a quarterback change in the East Semi-Final, replacing Dane Evans with Matthew Shiltz early in the third quarter. Head coach Orlondo Steinauer indicated that the move was made to try to breathe life into the offence with a new passer at the controls.
“It was just for a spark, that’s it. We weren’t able to put the ball in the end zone. It’s something we talked about and we were able to punch it in there once, so that was it. Just trying to get a spark,” Steinauer told the media after the game.
Evans completed seven-of-ten pass attempts for 123 yards and an interception in a little over two quarters of work. The pick came on a throw to Tim White that Alouettes’ cornerback Mike Jones undercut while working back to the football.
Shiltz entered the game on Hamilton’s second possession of the third quarter with his team down 22-6 and immediately engineered a scoring drive, throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Steven Dunbar Jr. He finished the game having completed 11-of-19 pass attempts for 127 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
A 35-yard field goal from Seth Small early in the fourth quarter made it a one-score game, though the Ticats eventually fell to the Montreal Alouettes by a score of 28-17. While the offence had its share of struggles, Hamilton’s defence gave up touchdowns on three of Montreal’s first four possessions, allowing them to build an early lead.
“We didn’t like the way that we started offensively or defensively but there was enough game ahead of us to find a way to win this one,” said Steinauer.
This marks the first time since 2018 that the Ticats have fallen short of a Grey Cup berth. Hamilton dominated Edmonton at home in the East Final in 2019 and overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to upset Toronto in last year’s East Final.
Steinauer, who took over the role of head coach in 2019, doesn’t want to grow accustomed to exiting the postseason this early.
“It feels terrible. It’s something we’re not accustomed to. I don’t really want to get used to it but today we didn’t execute well enough to move on in the playoffs, that’s really what happened out there. Emotionally, it’s tough. It’s new for us here in recent history but right now it’s reality,” he said.
The Ticats are entering an off-season during which a number of key players are set to become free agents. Veterans such as Jeremiah Masoli, Brandon Banks, and Ja’Gared Davis were permitted to leave last off-season and the team’s effort to get younger didn’t pay off in 2022.
The club’s championship drought has now extended to 23 years, which is the longest in the CFL. Hamilton will play host to next year’s Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field.