The fans are on the side, but the Ticates need a killer instinct to beat the Alouettes too

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“Losing isn’t even on our mind. We’ll be ready to put on a show on Sunday.”

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HAMILTON – Once again on Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats believe the darkness will be their ally in what they call their secret weapon: a playoff Blackout.

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The truth is, over 20,000 black-clad fans will make a lot of noise, but what is happening for the home team as they face the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern League semi-finals. Canadian football rests more on the shoulders of guys wearing the colors black and gold.

The Tiger-Cats worked their way to a second place finish in the East in the regular season. Even though their 8-6 record was very different from that of 15-3 in 2019 – a season that ended in a 33-12 Gray Cup loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – there were some similarities. . Although they were outplayed in their first two games, losing 19-6 to Winnipeg and 30-8 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, an argument could be made that the Ticates could have won each of their remaining 12 games. , which included 24-23 and 17-16 losses to the Toronto Argonauts, first.

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“There were some close games in 2019. I think a lot of people are forgetting that,” Ticats all-star offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl said during a Zoom media call on Friday. “It was a similar year. We just got off the wrong end of a few of those tight games. “

“We know what loss looks like… it hurts,” Ticates defensive back Cariel Brooks said. “We have lost more than we wanted this season. It was always in our hands to win, to end the games defensively. We know, when the game is in play, how we have to perform, how we have to execute it. Losing isn’t even on our minds. We will be ready to put on a show on Sunday.

Putting on a show will mean the Ticates will have to click through all three phases of the football game: offense, defense, and special teams. Getting ready to fight means quick practice, hopefully there are no regrets on Sunday, when the winner qualifies to face the Argos in the Eastern Final the following Sunday in Toronto.

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“What I’ve learned as a coach is that just because you perform in training doesn’t mean you perform at the level you want in a game,” said the head coach of Ticats Orlondo Steinauer. “Plus, vice versa, sometimes you don’t have best practices and you go out and turn it on. What we like to say is that we don’t want to leave anything to chance. We are not going to practice or celebrate sloppy habits. We’re going to create some good habits, and then we’re going to get into the game like this.

For Steinauer, the journey in 2021 is the same, but different. It is again the opportunity for his team to fight for a league championship. But there is a lot of work to be done before this becomes a reality.

“I am excited to know where we are at,” he said. “We’re going to have an opportunity. You don’t want to be one of the three (eliminated) teams that don’t practice this week. After this week, there will only be four teams left. You take it a week at a time. I’m excited. I feel like we have the right people and it’s about running and doing it on game day. There were a lot of moving parts, a lot of injuries that we had to overcome, like any football team. The more you experience it, the more well-balanced you are. Does this translate to more wins? I don’t know, but I don’t think the experience hurts you.

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The Alouettes and the Ticats have played twice this season. The Ticates won 27-10 and then lost 23-20 in overtime. A big difference: Trevor Harris (acquired from Edmonton) is now Montreal quarterback. In both games against Montreal, Hamilton did a good job preventing the big yards from William Stanback, Montreal’s elite running back. Stanback racked up 1,176 yards in 12 games, but Hamilton kept him at 40 and 59 yards.

“We know exactly who we’re playing against – with all due respect – he’s probably the best in the league,” Ticats safety Tunde Adeleke said. “All week we focused on wearing ball hats. We don’t expect one guy to bring down (Stanback) on his own. When one guy gets there, another guy has to get there, then a third guy has to get there.

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Sunday is actually quite simple: score more points than the other team by any means necessary. And if you don’t… well, as they say, there’s always next year.

“The game is not changing,” Steinauer said. “It’s always the same number of minutes in the game, the same number of people on the pitch. The difference in playoff football is that the consequence is big if you don’t. It’s an elimination game. If you’ve been in those, at least you’ve felt the thrill of them. At the end of the day, it’s football between the whistles. You want to score points, keep points off the board, make solid tackles and not flip it. It never changes.

“When we lose we find a way to bounce back,” Van Zeyl said. “Now we have to find a way to stack them and play consistent football. That’s what the playoffs are all about: it’s the team that can stay consistent, build on that and keep rolling. “

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THE END AROUND : It was cold – very, very cold – at Tim Hortons Field for Friday’s Ticats practice. The lampposts and goal posts swayed in the high winds – around 40 km / h – and it looked like it was around -10 ° C with the wind chill. By the way, I saw a guy walking through the lobby of my hotel with skis and ski poles. It should be a little warmer for Sunday afternoon’s game, but the forecast is 2 to 4 centimeters of snow… After not training on Thursday, Montreal all-star catcher Eugene Lewis was “limited” on Friday. If he can’t play, it would be a huge loss… Defensive back Desmond Lawrence will be back in the Ticates roster… It is likely that left tackle Jordan Murray will be out of the Ticates roster, replaced by Travis Vornkahl. Asked about Vornkahl, Van Zeyl said: “Travis is a guy who really wants to play, he prepares well, AND he likes to pick on people, which is a huge plus when you get into paid football and you’re trying to be physical.

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