Redblacks Clinch First Place in the East with Complete Team Win Over Ti-Cats

Photo credit: Adam Gagnon, CFL

The Ottawa Redblacks are the class of the East Division, at least for the regular season. The Redblacks thrashed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 30-13 to clinch first place in the East. It is the third time in the team’s five-year history that they will host the Eastern Final.

Ottawa defeated Hamilton in back-to-back weeks to sweep their regular season series with the Ti-Cats. Carrying over from last week’s dominant second half, the Redblacks defense has now kept the Ti-Cats out of the endzone in six consecutive quarters.

Diontae Spencer had a huge night for the Redblacks in two facets of the game. He caught two of Trevor Harris’ three touchdowns passes and gained 246 total yards (116 receiving yards and 130 punt-return yards). Brad Sinopoli had five receptions to put him at 116 for the season. He now owns the record for catches in a single season by a Canadian, passing the previous record of 112 set by Montreal’s Ben Cahoon.

Behind a fantastic performance from the Ottawa offensive line, Harris was on target from the pocket throughout the night against the CFL’s top pass defense. He completed 23 of his 30 pass attempts for 267 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The game put him over 5000 passing yards this season, the first time in his career that he has surpassed the milestone.

Harris’ night was even more impressive considering the conditions at Tim Horton’s Field. As is often the case in late October football in the CFL, the weather was far from ideal. It was a tremendously windy and rainy evening in Hamilton.

Ti-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli did not fare as well in the storm, finishing with a completion percentage of 52.1% and two second-half interceptions. Sherrod Baltimore picked-off Masoli for the second time in as many games and JP Bolduc got himself an interception off the Hamilton signal-caller in garbage time.

The Ti-Cats offense struggled in their first game following top receiving target Brandon Banks’ season-ending injury. Although gaining only 19 offensive yards less than the Redblacks, Hamilton failed to capitalize in big moments and was forced into four field goal attempts.

Alex Green had another strong outing out of the backfield with 76 yards rushing off only nine carries, but was effectively taken out of the game plan given the Ti-Cats’ deficit in the second half.

Greg Ellingson caught two touchdown passes in the game, each from a different Redblacks quarterback. His first came in the opening quarter from Harris, beating his man in the back of the endzone to score the game’s first points.

Then in the second quarter, backup Dominique Davis entered the game as expected on a short-yardage opportunity. But instead of diving forward for the first down, as he almost always does, Davis rolled to his left and hit a wide-open Ellingson on a 55-yard touchdown. It was an unconventional play-call from offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo that the Hamilton defense clearly did not see coming.

William Powell, the CFL’s leading rusher, was given the night off to rest his body in preparation for the playoffs. Mossis Madu filled-in for his first game action of the 2018 season. As Powell was much of the week before, Madu was contained by a physical Hamilton front. Madu averaged only 2.4 yards per carry and finished with 26 rush yards.

Rookie Canadian Justin Howell returned from his extensive injury absence to make his first career start at safety. Linebackers Kevin Brown and Avery Williams returned to the lineup as well.

The Redblacks will host the Toronto Argonauts next Friday night to closeout the regular season and then wait on their opponent for the Eastern Final at TD Place on November 18th.