HAMILTON— One more time the floodlights at Ivor Wynne Stadium were lit Saturday afternoon, because it was cloudy and damp. But maybe they would have been turned on anyway.
Behind the north stand, but not too far away, smoke billowed from the steel mill smoke stakes sprinkled across the horizon. A little closer the steeple of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church peaks slightly above the north stand, too.
Steel and religion, and the Tiger-Cats: the only ingredients needed for the 503rd football game day in Hamilton’s east end. But not the last time, although it felt like it.
In two years fans will again walk down the old, residential streets — Melrose Ave, Prospect St., Leinster Ave. and Balsam Ave. — to the new $145.7-million, 22,501-seat stadium. It will look shinny, and smell new, but will not be the same.
This is Ivor Wynne Stadium, née Civic Stadium, and it is 84-years-old, and cold, but not worthless, at least not to the 29,722 who came Saturday for one more game. One more time, with so many feelings. Hamilton’s all-time team was announced before kickoff against Winnipeg, and all 25 men, some old and hunched over, were cheered loudly as if Saturday was their game day, too.
Hamilton was up 14-0 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers midway through the first quarter, and held on to win 28-18.
Ticats quarterback Henry Burris, who unofficially completed 15 of 27 passes for two touchdowns, was precise early with quick strikes over Winnipeg’s pass rush. A Blue Bombers pass interference penalty, then two passes to running back Avon Cobourne and fullback Daryl Stephenson led to a 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown by returner receiver Chris Williams.
Hamilton’s horrific defence announced two minutes later that at least for Saturday it would be unbeatable. Defensive end Brandon Boudreaux slammed into Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce, forcing the ball loose. Hamilton’s other defensive end Greg Peach happily fell on the ball in the end zone and extended the Ticats’ lead to two touchdowns.
Pierce injured his right throwing arm on the fumble, and left the game before halftime. Bombers running backs Chad Simpson and Will Ford would leave hurt too before the end of the second quarter.
Winnipeg punter Mike Renaud’s run on a fake punt with five minutes left before halftime was desperate, and did not work. Eight plays later, Burris passes to Williams and Dave Stala set-up an eight-yard touchdown pass to Andy Fantuz to increase Hamilton’s lead to 22-0.
Winnipeg kicker Justin Palardy and Hamilton kicker Luca Congi exchanged field goals on either side of halftime. Twelve minutes after Congi’s kick, a five-yard run by Winnipeg backup pivot Joey Elliott punctuated a seven play, 53-yard drive to cut Hamilton’s lead to 25-10.
Burris and Hamilton’s attack unofficially mustered less than 100 yards in the second half, but the third and fourth quarters were predominantly rainy and vicious. Boudreaux, Peach, defensive tackle Torrey Davis, and defensive backs Bo Smith and Geoff Tisdale, punished most players wearing gold and blue.
A 36-yard Congi field goal, and Tisdale’s second interception inside the final 80 seconds sealed Hamilton’s sixth win of the season, regardless of the 41-yard touchdown pass Elliott threw to Terrence Edwards in the final 30 seconds.
The Ticats have wasted so many opportunities since a solitary July winning streak. If Edmonton beats Montreal, the Eskimos will crossover and claim the East’s last playoff spot.
But it did not matter Saturday. The sun crept through the clouds and brightened Ivor Wynne’s yellow benches as time ran out.
And lastly, there was an “Argos suck” chant one more time.