Head shot overshadows Tiger-Cats’ season opening win over Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collar is hit late by Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Simoni Lawrence after Collaros was downed by Tiger-Cats' Julian Howsare during first half CFL football game action in Hamilton on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Collaros was injured in the first quarter of their game Thursday night versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats started the 2019 CFL season Thursday night with a 23-17 victory over the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Frankie Williams’ 68-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter gave Hamilton a 17-13 lead, and a lead they would not relinquish.

It is only the second season opening win for the Ticats in the last dozen years and marked the first head coaching victory for Hamilton’s Orlondo Steinauer.

The win also snapped the Ticats’ five-game losing streak against the Roughriders, however the game was overshadowed by a controversial hit by Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence on Riders quarterback Zach Collaros.

On the third play of the game Collaros, who has a history of concussions, slid feet first after a seven yard run and was hit in the head by a diving Lawrence.

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Collaros left the game and did not return.

Riders’ backup QB Cody Fajardo went 9-for-17 for 66 yards, while third stringer Isaac Harker replaced him late in the third quarter and completed eight of his 14 pass attempts for 128 yards but was intercepted by Lawrence and Mike Daly late in the game.

Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli went 17-for-28 for 169 yards and a 41-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Banks early in the second quarter.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Hamilton Tiger-Cats have best shot at winning the Grey Cup

Cats kicker Lirim Hajrullahu connected on all three of his field goal attempts from 33, 39 and 48 yards while Riders kicker Brett Lauther went one for two, chipping a 19 yard attempt through the uprights early in the fourth quarter but later missed wide left on a 41 yard boot.

Zach Collaros ‘more comfortable’ heading into second season with Roughriders

Click to play video: 'Zach Collaros ‘more comfortable’ heading into second season with Roughriders'
Zach Collaros ‘more comfortable’ heading into second season with Roughriders

The crowd at Tim Hortons Field was announced at 22,287 but the stadium was about half-full due to rain and the Toronto Raptors facing the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

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Hamilton next plays in Toronto on June 22.

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