Tiger Cats can cement CFL playoff position with win or tie versus Lions

National Sports

Jeremiah Masoli is on a nice roll.

The Hamilton quarterback has thrown for 300 or more yards in his last three starts. More importantly, that’s translated into a pair of wins for the Tiger-Cats (6-5).

Another such performance would certainly help Hamilton’s playoff quest. The Ticats can clinch a post-season berth Friday night with a win or tie at Tim Hortons Field against the B.C. Lions (4-7).

“I think Jeremiah is about as healthy as he’s going to be,” said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “I feel like we’ve protected (the quarterback) a lot better and we’ve run the ball a little bit more effectively.

“The biggest thing is we’ve come away with wins. To say he’s in more of a groove now is fun talk but at the end of the day, it’s about winning and not turning the ball over and we’ve done a decent job of that here recently.”

Masoli, 33, was 17-of-24 passing for 357 yards and three touchdowns in Hamilton’s 39-23 road win last week over the Edmonton Elks. Over his last three starts, Masoli has connected on 66-of-85 passes (77.7 per cent) for 1,038 yards with seven TDs and no interceptions.

Masoli got some help, though. Running back Don Jackson ran for 120 yards and a TD on 16 carries while defensive lineman Dylan Wynn registered two of Hamilton’s four sacks and linebacker Jovan Santox-Knox had 10 tackles.

But the five-foot-10, 223-pound Masoli hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 118 pass attempts. That’s the second-longest streak in the CFL this season as B.C. starter Michael Reilly reached 127 attempts before being picked off.

It’s been a tough stretch for B.C., which comes in having lost six straight. The Lions dropped a heart-wrenching 31-29 overtime road decision to the Toronto Argonauts after kicker Jimmy Camacho missed three field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.

American Nick Vogel will handling kicking duties Friday night with Camacho having been placed on the practice roster.

The game is also an important one for the Lions. They not only trail the idle third-place Calgary Stampeders (6-6) in the West Division but the Montreal Alouettes (6-5) for the third and final East Division playoff spot.

A Hamilton win Friday night would eliminate the crossover scenario this year.

Masoli registered a perfect 158.3 efficiency rating last week against Edmonton, the second time in his career (and first time since 2018) that he’d achieved the feat. He was the fourth CFL quarterback this season to do so, joining Reilly, Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros and Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr.

Reilly was the only CFL quarterback to do so in 2019 and over his career is 6-7 against Hamilton. However, B.C. is 3-3 on the road. The veteran quarterback is second overall in passing (2.613 yards) with 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

The Lions remained in southern Ontario following their loss in Toronto and Reilly said that’s been a positive experience for the squad.

“They’re good road trips because you’re just focused on your team and being together with the guys,” Reilly told the Lions’ website. “It’s kind of like a late-season version of training camp.

“That’s good for the chemistry and all of that but at the end of the day, we know what’s at stake. We’ve got to get a win.”

B.C. deserved a better fate against Toronto. Reilly, 36, finished 20-of-38 passing for 290 yards with three TDs and an interception while Bryan Burnham (five catches, 96 yards, TD) and Dominique Rhymes (six catches, 68 yards, TD) anchored the receiving corps.

“He’s still got it, man,” veteran Hamilton defensive lineman Ted Laurent said of Reilly. “They have great playmakers on offence so its going to be a battle.

“We’re not worried about the playoffs, we’re worried about the B.C. Lions right now.”

Defensively, B.C. held Toronto to 168 total passing yards and 290 total yards as linebacker Bo Lokombo had a team-high nine tackles and two sacks.

Hamilton will make a change on its offensive line as Coulter Woodmansey takes over at centre for the injured Darius Ciraco.

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