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Ottawa, Hamilton to meet for fourth time this season in East Division final


OTTAWA — The time for talking is over for Simoni Lawrence and Delvin Breaux.

The Hamilton linebacker and cornerback were all business Saturday when discussing the Tiger-Cats' East Division final showdown with Ottawa on Sunday afternoon. There's been much talk of the Redblacks sweeping the season series 3-0 but Breaux had heard enough when he took to the podium at TD Place.

"You know I'm blessed and thankful to have this opportunity," said Breaux, who returned to Hamilton this season after three years with the NFL's New Orleans Saints. "It's time to play, man.

"There's been enough talking. It's time to play."

The usually gregarious Lawrence was also very matter of fact on Saturday.

"Yeah man, I just feel like it's one of those games where everything starts brand new," said a straight-faced Lawrence. "We're 1-0, let's just play football.

"I feel like they've still got tendencies. We've got players back there ready to play and I feel like it's about us this week. If we all play to our highest potential of football we won't have any problems."

But Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris presented Hamilton with plenty of problems during the regular season. He completed 70-of-97 passes (72.2 per cent) for 836 yards with four TDs and no interceptions against the Ticats and threw for 1,895 passing yards with 11 TDs and two interceptions over his last six starts.

Harris was the CFL's most accurate passer (70.1 per cent) this season and set career highs in completions (431), attempts (615) and passing yards (5,116). He also had 22 touchdown strikes against 11 interceptions.

"Trevor is a very accurate passer and when he has time he can do damage," said Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell. "We need to make sure we're dynamic in what we're doing on offence and be able to run the ball, play action and do those things.

"If people want to pressure or blitz, you have to make them pay. I'm a defensive co-ordinator by trade and you love blitzing when you're on defence but at the same time there is some risk to it and so if that's something they choose to do we need to make sure we can hit some deep shots on them."

Harris has no shortage of capable receivers. Brad Sinopoli (116 catches, 1,376 yards four TDs) anchors a receiving corps that also includes Greg Ellingson (91 catches, 1,086 yards, five TDs) and Diontae Spencer (81 catches, 1,007 yards, seven TDs).

Sinopoli's receptions total was a CFL single-season record for a Canuck and he's a finalist for the league's top Canadian honour for a second straight year. In the 2015 East final, it was Ellingson's late 93-yard TD grab that earned Ottawa a thrilling 35-28 home win over Hamilton.

However, Ottawa's William Powell was the CFL's second-leading rusher with 1,362 yards and six TDs. The five-foot-nine, 207-pound Powell averaged a solid 5.43 yards per carry and added 39 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

"That's been the cool thing about this year that we've been able to produce both ways most of the time," Harris said. "We've just to make sure we're able to establish the run and be able to use every phase of our offensive game to our advantage."

Hamilton linebacker Larry Dean, the East Division's top defensive player nominee with 106 total tackles, said Ottawa's offence forces an opposing defence to be thorough in its approach.

"You have to play a total game," he said. "We just have to be disciplined.

"We have a great gameplan and we just have to go out and execute it."

Hamilton's defence was ranked third against the pass (247.7 yards per game) and in fewest offensive yards allowed (334.4). Breaux remains one of the CFL's top cornerbacks but Jumal Rolle will miss a second straight start after suffering an Achilles injury prior to the Ticats' 48-8 East Division semifinal win over B.C. last weekend.

Freddie Williams, who had a pick-six against B.C., will again start in Rolle's position Sunday

Hamilton's Jeremiah Masoli, the East Division nominee for the CFL's top player award, threw for 259 yards and three TDs against B.C., averaging a season-best 13.6 yards per attempt. Masoli was the CFL's second-leading passer with 5,209 yards this season, his first full campaign as a starter.

Masoli completed 74-of-120 passes (58.3 per cent) for 937 yards with four TDs and four interceptions versus Ottawa. He also was Hamilton's starter in the '15 East final.

"It almost feels like a lifetime ago," he said. 'Obviously we're a completely different team, they're a very different team to.

(Sunday) is it's own game. It's a one-game season, it's the East championship."

Veteran Luke Tasker had two of Masoli's three TD strikes against B.C. but it was youngster Bralon Addison who impressed, registering five catches for 124 yards. Hamilton's receiving corps has lost Shamawd Chambers, Chris Williams, Brandon Banks, Jalen Saunders and Terrence Toliver to injury this season.

Ottawa rookie Lewis Ward will appear in his first CFL playoff game. The Redblacks kicker has made a pro football record 48 straight field goals and 51-of-52 this season (league mark 98.1 per cent), including 16 from beyond 40 yards.

Sunday's forecast is for partly sunny skies with a high of -3 C and 14 kilometre-an-hour winds. Ward, the East nominee for top rookie and special-teams player, said he's ready for the cooler conditions.

"The goal and trick is to stay as warm as possible on the sidelines," he said. "But the ball is a little harder, it doesn't quite have that jump.

"But realistically if I keep doing the same thing I've been doing all year then the ball should travel pretty well."

Ottawa will play its first game since a 24-9 home win over Toronto on Nov. 2. The Redblacks ended their regular season with three straight wins — including two over Hamilton — to finish atop the East Division with an 11-7 record.

Hamilton dropped its final three regular-season contests before dispatching B.C.

 

Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ottawa Redblacks,

Sunday, TD Place

Key matchup: Ottawa receiving corps vs Hamilton secondary. The Redblacks' receiving corps features three 1,000-yard performers in Brad Sinopoli (116 catches, 1,376 yards, four TDs), Greg Ellingson (91 catches, 1,086 yards, five TDs) and Diontae Spencer (81 catches, 1,007 yards, seven TDs). Hamilton was ranked third against the pass this season (247.7 yards per game) but cornerback Jumal Rolle will miss a second straight start after suffering an Achilles injury prior to the Ticats' 48-8 East Division semifinal win over B.C. Freddie Williams, who had a pick-six versus the Lions, gets the start at cornerback.

The big number: 3 — Ottawa swept the season series with Hamilton 3-0.

Who's hot: Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris had a solid regular season with career highs in completions (431), attempts (615) and passing yards (5,116) in 17 games. He also had 22 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Hamilton receiver Bralon Addison had five catches for 124 yards against B.C., his first-ever CFL playoff game.

Who's not: Hamilton kicker Lirim Hajrullahu made 46-of-52 field goals (85.2 per cent) but missed a CFL-high five converts (41-of-46, 89.1 per cent). The league average was 93 per cent (304-of-327).

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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