Ward Sets Pro Football Record as Redblacks Tame Ti-Cats in Pivotal East Battle
Photo credit: The Canadian Press
The Redblacks are now one win away from taking the Eastern crown heading into the playoffs. Ottawa topped the Hamilton Ti-Cats 35-31 Friday night by force of an impressive second half.
The Ti-Cats led 25-14 at the half, but Trevor Harris led three scoring drives in the game’s final 30 minutes to snare the victory. It was an entirely different story from last week’s second half in Edmonton, when the Redblacks were outscored 20-0.
“It was about mindset. Flipping our mindset into how we should be thinking about the game and where we should be at mentally. We did that in the second half and when we do that, we are tough to beat,” said Harris.
The Redblacks held the Ti-Cats to only six second-half points. Head coach Rick Campbell said he reminded his team at halftime that the opponents are not their friends at this important time of year.
“It was kind of me being in a bad mood,” said Campbell. “I just wanted us to have a little bit of nasty and a little bit of edge to us.”
Redblacks backup quarterback Dominique Davis came up huge in short yardage. He scored three of Ottawa’s four touchdowns on one-yard quarterback sneaks.
Lewis Ward hit his 44th and 45th straight field goal attempts. Two weeks ago, he set the all-time CFL record for longest field goal streak. Friday night, he set the all-time professional football record, passing the mark previously set by NFL kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Ward had friends and family in the stands to see him capture the historic moment.
“Just a great moment and to have that, it felt pretty special,” said Ward.
The rookie set the record in style. The field goal was a 52-yarder, the longest attempt Ward has hit in the CFL or in his five years with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. Not to be outdone, Hamilton kicker Lirim Hajrullahu knocked through a 53-yard field goal of his own.
Despite heavy winds at TD Place, Harris finished with a completion percentage of 75% and 341 yards passing. He found a diving Diontae Spencer in the back of the endzone on the first drive of the second half for his lone touchdown pass.
William Powell pounded the rock for first down after first down as the Redblacks tried to kill what remained on the clock late in the game. He even busted loose on a 40-yard run into the red zone but fumbled on the very next play. Hamilton took over with 45 seconds remaining needing a touchdown, but could not move the ball. Powell finished with 87 well-earned yards against a physical Ti-Cat front.
RJ Harris and Brad Sinopoli were the favourite targets in the passing game. Harris was the downfield threat (five catches for 128 yards, an average of 25.6 yards per reception) while Sinopoli consistently found the soft spots in the Hamilton defense (eight catches for 113 yards).
Hamilton came out blazing in the first half with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and his star receiving duo: Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker. The pair is in the top three in the CFL in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and delivered early in the game.
They combined for three touchdown grabs in the first half, including a Banks score in which he burned multiple Ottawa defenders for 33 yards down the sideline. Banks finished with 133 yards receiving but was injured trying to make a diving grab in the second half. He did not return and the Hamilton offense was noticeably less potent. Masoli finished with the three passing touchdowns and 342 passing yards.
Ti-Cats back Alex Green returned to action for the first time in over a month. With Hamilton, you know the passing game is going to be difficult to contain. But with a healthy Green in the mix, the Ti-Cats offense can be more multi-faceted. That was the case during their hot first half, with White contributing 44 yards on the ground and another 40 through the air. He was held in check following halftime.
The Redblacks defense kept the Ti-Cats out of the endzone in the second half, allowing only a pair of field goals, and Sherrod Baltimore picked off Masoli in the opening quarter for his first career interception.
The Ti-Cats defensive line controlled the tone of the game early but was broken through as the game went along. Interior defender Ted Laurent picked up two sacks and blew up multiple Ottawa run plays.
Penalties were costly for Hamilton. They finished with 12 penalties for 128 yards.
With the win, Ottawa now holds the tiebreaker over Hamilton. The Redblacks will travel to Hamilton next Saturday to finish the home-and-home against the Ti-Cats. Ottawa can clinch the East Division with a victory.