Warning: Beware of Cats

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Once again yesterday, Tom Higgins repeated the results of the last team that took the Hamilton Tiger-Cats lightly.

The words came out of the Calgary Stampeders head coach's mouth extremely rehearsed: Friday, Aug. 3. Winnipeg 22. Hamilton 43. A good football team lost at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The Stamps players didn't hear Higgins in his news conference yesterday. They didn't have to.

It's been reiterated all week that if the Stamps want to prove they belong above third place in the CFL's West Division, taking out the Ticats in convincing fashion tonight (5:30 p.m., TSN) would be a nice start.

"If you play well and the team happens to beat you, that's a different story," Higgins said about taking the 1-10 Ticats for granted.

"If we're playing our best and the Tiger-Cats are playing their best, we can still squeak out a win. It's been addressed and talked about with our players because good teams need to play at a high level at all times."

The 6-4-1 Stampeders bring a three-game win streak into Hamilton, but that really means nothing to quarterback Henry Burris, who is red hot in topping the 300-yard mark for passing in seven of the past eight games.

"We were in a position where they are in right now, dealing with some adversity," Burris said. "We're focused on not regressing.

"We want to continue on this path that we're on, that's taking care of small details and playing hard football. Seeing how we're focused today (arriving at Ivor Wynne), I'm sure there will not be any letdowns."

Despite being on a five-game losing streak, the Tiger-Cats won't be pushovers. This is new quarterback Casey Printers' second start for the Tabbies and he will eventually regain the form that made him the 2004 CFL's most outstanding player.

The Ticats also get dynamic running back Jesse Lumsden and receiver Jason Armstead back from injury. Printers came in with a lot of bluster two weeks ago, but he said yesterday putting this franchise back on track will take time.

How long it will take is the question. Aside from 2004, Hamilton has finished last every year since 2002, including a one-win season in '03.

"It's about everyone in the locker-room believing in one another," Printers said. "We're the only ones who can change the environment. We've been playing hard. We just need to play smart football and understand we can't hurt ourselves in key possessions.

"You can't put a timetable on it. You just need to know change is imminent."

At some point, the Ticats will put together a complete effort such as the performance Aug. 3, when Lumsden ran for 211 yards.

Last week, their maligned defence held the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to just one offensive TD, but the Ticats offence and special teams gifted two majors to the visitors.

Hamilton head coach Charlie Taaffe said before the season-opener in Calgary the Ticats need to win games to gain respect. Not giving up when things seem hopeless almost has the same effect.

"I think we've earned respect because I heard it from opposing coaches, and I don't think it's lip service because they don't need to say it," Taaffe said.

"They respect how hard we play and how physical we've become. I wouldn't say we haven't earned any by quantum leaps without wins but have earned some for how hard we play. We don't play real smart at times.

"When people come in here, they know they better play well or will get beat. In some ways, we've earned respect that way."

If the Stamps can beat the Ticats, they are guaranteed to jump into second place in the division. Saskatchewan and B.C. play tomorrow in Regina.


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