Wait 'til next year

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:35 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Marcel Bellefeuille sent a message late last night to those who have been faithful to yet another hapless Hamilton Tiger-Cats squad.

"Stay with us," the Ticats head coach said after the team's final home game of 2008. "We feel like we got some answers. We feel like this is going in the right direction. This team will be much better next year."

If you were one of 20,612 chilled fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium who watched the Ticats lose 28-17 to the Calgary Stampeders last night, you have to hope Bellefeuille is right.

With three wins, Hamilton likely will finish last in the East Division, which would ensure that it only looked like the Argonauts, with four wins and two games left including tonight in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions, were the worst team in the CFL this season. This is the fourth year in a row the Ticats, who play next week in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers, will have five wins or less.

Hamilton fans probably will see a different group in 2009. The futures of hometown boy Jesse Lumsden, who endured another spate of injuries and is scheduled to have shoulder surgery before he becomes a free agent, and quarterback Casey Printers are cloudy, and there's a chance neither will be back.

A couple of players who have the potential to make Bellefeuille, who likely will return as coach, look good in a year gave middling final impressions. Quinton Porter, who could be the quarterback of the future, left the game in the fourth quarter with a suspected MCL injury in his right knee. Porter, who was replaced by rookie Adam Tafralis, completed 18 of 26 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown, which was caught by Chris Davis early in the fourth quarter. Tafralis, with under two minutes to go, hit Prechae Rodriguez from nine yards.

Then there is running back Kenton Keith, who amassed just 33 yards on nine carries. Keith signed with Hamilton a month ago after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL and is under contract through 2010 with an option for 2011. Keith has been in and out of the lineup and has not lived up to his potential for various reasons.

"A lot of us are new, and once we get training camp under our belt, guys get to know each other and become like a family, and start to play for each other," Keith said. "I'm not frustrated. God makes everything happen for a reason."

The Stampeders, who were 2-5 in their previous seven trips to Steeltown, helped clear up the muddy playoff picture in the West Divsion. In moving to 12-5, Calgary clinched the division for the first time since 2000 and will play host in the West final on Nov. 15.

Quarterback Henry Burris has a good shot at being honoured as the CFL's most outstanding player and with 227 yards passing, has 4,930 yards, getting him closer to his first 5,000-yard season in the CFL. Joffrey Reynolds had two touchdowns for Calgary and Jeremaine Copeland one.

"When you get into the post-season tournament and it's one-game sudden death, anything can happen," Stamps coach John Hufnagel said. "I know we've won our first playoff game already (with the win)."


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