The Ticats’ season ended with a loss to the Alouettes, who now face the Argos in the East final

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MONTREAL — After feeling the pain of being Gray Cup losers in each of the past two seasons, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a different kind of disappointment to deal with.

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The Ticats were eliminated from the CFL playoffs on Sunday, losing the East Division semi-final 28-17 to the Montreal Alouettes in front of 20,693 fans at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

This sets the stage for next Sunday’s East Final, when the Toronto Argonauts get a home date against the Alouettes.

“It’s terrible,” Ticats head coach Orlando Steinauer said. “It’s something we’re not used to, I don’t really want to get used to it. We didn’t execute well enough to make the playoffs.

“Emotionally, it’s hard. This is new for us in recent history. But, right now, that’s the reality.
The Alouettes started strong. In their first four offensive drives, they scored three touchdowns, taking a 22-6 halftime lead.

“We still had a lot of games ahead of us,” Steinauer said. “We didn’t like the way we started, offensively or defensively, but there was enough game ahead of us to find a way to win this one.”

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The Alouettes scored in the first practice of the game. After a 49-yard kickoff return from Chandler Worthy gave Montreal the ball in midfield, quarterback Trevor Harris threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jake Wieneke five plays later. The convert went 7-0, just 3:19 into the game.

A 47-yard field goal by Seth Small of the Ticats made it 7-3. But a 33-yard Harris pass to Geno Lewis sent the Alouettes deep into Hamilton’s end zone before backup quarterback Dominique Davis forced his way into the one-yard end zone to make it 14. -3.

The Ticats, however, responded, with QB Dane Evans completing a 36-yard pass to Tim White but only had a 23-yard field goal to go within eight.

The Alouettes took the lead when, with a big hole opening around the left side, Walter Fletcher ran 33 yards for a touchdown at 5:17 of the second quarter for a 21-6 advantage.

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The Ticats looked stronger in the second half, both in attack and defense. With Matthew Shiltz at quarterback to open the third quarter (replacing Evans, who even completed 10 passes for 123 yards), the Ticats got a 12-yard touchdown pass to Steven Dunbar and a two-yard converted pass. points to Anthony Johnson to make it 22-14 in the middle of the frame.

The teams then traded field goals – Cote hit a 28-yard shot for the Alouettes after a 47-yard punt return from Worthy put the Alouettes on Hamilton’s 18, and Small responded with a three-point shot from 35 yards.

The Alouettes bet on the third-and-one near the Hamilton 50 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Ticats made a huge save (the tackle was credited to Richard Leonard). The Alouettes, however, regained the upper hand on Mike Jones’ second interception of the game.

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The Ticats won the ball with 2:31 left. Shiltz was separated from the ball when he was drilled by a Tyrice Beverette blitz. There was a challenge from the coach by the Ticats, but the CFL command center stuck to the call on the field.

A short field goal gave the Alouettes the advantage of 11 points.

“Because of them, they played a better game of football,” said Shiltz, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 127 yards. “We weren’t able to capitalize on some shifts in momentum. They beat us today; I love all the guys in the locker room, I would go fight them every time.

The Ticats, who had established a strong ground game as they finished the regular season with five wins in their last six games, struggled to get off to a good start against Montreal. They had just 37 yards rushing for Montreal’s 145 — 77 from Walter Fletcher and 66 from William Stanback.
The result will not be easy for the Ticats to digest, neither with the recent successes they have had nor with the solid end to the regular season.

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There will be hypotheses, questions. And the team will be looking for answers.

“A lot of people counted us out all season and we fought back,” Shiltz said. “It was not going to be any different. Everyone kept calm. They just had more points when time ran out.

“It’s hard to see the big picture and the lessons learned along the way. But in due time, I think we will be able to reflect on all that we have overcome this season.

“The biggest takeaway is that we didn’t get to where we wanted to be. That’s the goal, get wins and win the Gray Cup.

Harris was a factor for the Alouettes, especially in the first half. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 243 yards, with the Alouettes holding a big advantage in time of possession, 33:23 to 26:37.

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