Hamilton Tiger-Cats, B.C. Lions clash in Eastern Semifinal

Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones stands on the sideline during the first half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones stands on the sideline during the first half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver on Saturday, Sept. 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

It’s win-or-go-home time in the Canadian Football League.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host the B.C. Lions at Tim Hortons Field on Sunday afternoon for the Eastern Semifinal. The winner will move on to Ottawa to face the Redblacks in the East Division Final on Nov. 18.

Sunday’s kickoff is at 1 p.m. Listeners can tune in to The 5th Quarter‘s post-game show at 5 p.m. on Global News Radio 900 CHML, head online to listen at or log on to the Radioplayer Canada app. Fans can also watch the show on CHML’s Facebook page.

Relive the epic 5th Quarter podcast following B.C.’s 35-32 OT win over Hamilton

Sunday’s game will be the 12th time that a western team will play in the Eastern Semifinal and B.C.’s first time since they beat Hamilton in 2009. Crossover teams (all from the West Division) are 4-6 against their East Division opponents but have won in each of the last two seasons (Saskatchewan in 2017, Edmonton in 2016). However, no crossover team has made it all the way to the Grey Cup.

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The Ticats (8-10) ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak and finished in second place in the East Division, while the Lions (9-9) dropped two of their last three games and settled for fourth place in the West Division to secure the crossover playoff spot.

The two clubs met during back-to-back games in September, each winning on their home field. B.C. beat Hamilton 35-32 in overtime in Vancouver, and the Cats returned the favour a week later with a 40-10 thrashing of the Lions.

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Hamilton’s win came a day after a video of some B.C. players dancing on the Ticats’ logo during the team’s walk-through at Tim Hortons Field went viral. The CFL also investigated a heated exchange between players from both teams after the game in one of the stadium’s parking lots.

Having home field advantage is a plus for the Tiger-Cats, who have won four of their nine home games — the Lions struggled on the road in 2018, sporting a 2-7 record — but that 4-5 home record is the worst among the CFL’s six playoff contestants.

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The Lions have more playoff experience, with 72 post-season appearances compared to Hamilton’s 44. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay leads all players with 10 playoff games under his belt.

Thirteen Ticats players will be making their playoff debut Sunday, including right guard Darius Ciraco, right tackle Ryker Mathews and left tackle Kevin Palmer. This will be the first taste of the playoffs for eight B.C. players, including kicker Ty Long and defensive linemen Davon Coleman and Claudell Louis.

The last time Lulay started against Hamilton on July 15, 2017, the Lions whipped the Cats 42-26 at Tim Hortons Field. He is 5-4 all-time against Hamilton, while Ticats QB Jeremiah Masoli, the Eastern nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player this year, is 2-2 in his career versus B.C.

Sunday will mark the 90th playoff game in Tiger-Cats franchise history. The team is 42-46-1 in the post-season. The Lions have played in 53 playoff encounters and are 21-32.