On paper, the Canadian Football League’s latest version of the ‘battle of the cats’ is a one-sided affair.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have jumped out to a 5-2 record and lead the East Division while the B.C. Lions have struggled to a 1-6 mark and sit in the basement of the CFL’s West Division.
Hamilton welcomes B.C. to Tim Hortons Field Saturday at 7 p.m. as the Ticats look for their fifth consecutive victory at home, something they haven’t done since winning their first eight games when the stadium opened in 2014. After the game, listen to The 5th Quarter on 900 CHML and watch it on CHML’s Facebook page.
The Lions are coming off their first bye week of 2019 (B.C. is 2-5 since 2016 off a bye week) and are desperate for a win. But they have to get their offensive line woes sorted out first. Quarterback Mike Reilly has been sacked a CFL-high 25 times so far this season including 13 times in B.C.’s last three contests.
The Lions have shuffled the deck chairs on the o-line, shuttling David Foucault from right tackle to left guard in place of Hunter Steward, replacing Andrew Peirson at centre with rookie Phillip Norman, inserting Sukh Chungh at right guard in place of Norman, and plunking Justin Renfrow at right tackle instead of Foucault.
The only holdover on B.C.’s starting offensive line from last week is left tackle, and former Ticat, Joel Figueroa.
Entering Week 9, the Tiger-Cats are the highest scoring team in the league (229 points) and they’ve allowed the third fewest (139) in the CFL. The Lions, however, have scored just 145 points through seven games (second lowest) and are tied with Toronto for the most points allowed with 241, and average of more than 34 points per game.
Dane Evans will make his second start of the season at QB for Hamilton and in the seven quarters following Jeremiah Masoli’s season-ending knee injury, he has completed 32 of 54 pass attempts (59%) for 290 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Evans will have a new starting running back behind him Saturday night as Cameron Marshall will suit up in his first game for the Cats after coming over from Saskatchewan as a free agent in the off-season. Marshall got hurt in training camp and replaces the injured Sean Thomas Erlington and Maleek Irons in Hamilton’s backfield.
Receiver Brandon Banks and defensive end Adrian Tracy are also slotted to return Saturday night after missing Hamilton’s 24-19 loss against the Roughriders last week, while linebacker Simoni Lawrence will also return from his two-game suspension for his head shot on then-Riders starting QB Zach Collaros. Jumal Rolle also replaces the injured Devlin Breaux Sr. at cornerback.