Ticats ready to pounce on hapless Als

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

HAMILTON -- Nothing is being taken for granted here in The Hammer, where the Ticats are poised to win their fifth straight game for the first time since 1998.

In a quarterback league, the Ticats will have the decided edge when the reigning champions and the perennial measuring stick in the CFL's East pay a visit to Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Montreal has been able to excel since the rebirth of the Als brand in part due to the presence and sustained excellence of Anthony Calvillo.

When Calvillo lines up under centre, no defence is daunting, no scheme impossible to attack because this veteran and one-time Ticat who played under Matt Dunigan in Hamilton, has seen it all.

Saturday's starter, Adrian McPherson, hasn't seen much, perhaps only his stock drop in the eyes of many who felt more would be achieved by this athletic pivot.

A bruised sternum will sideline Calvillo, while a bruised ego is perhaps what ails McPherson the most.

McPherson hasn't taken a snap this season, the victim of a knee injury that sidelined him for the first nine weeks.

Even though Als head coach Marc Trestman made his quarterback announcement on Thursday, the Ticats weren't paying any attention.

Even with a short week to prepare for Montreal, what the Ticats did in the lead-up to Saturday was to focus on what they do best.

If anything, Hamilton's recent schedule that has seen it play the Blue Bombers and Argos in home-and-home series may have been the perfect means to prepare for McPherson.

In Cleo Lemon, the Argos have a quarterback with similar athleticism and arm strength to McPherson.

Buck Pierce and Steven Jyles are nowhere near as accomplished as Calvillo, more comparable to McPherson in the way each can use their legs.

Whether it was Pierce, Jyles or Lemon, the Ticats won, putting together a run that has turned the East into a competitive playing field for the first time in recent memory.

If the Ticats triumph and if the Argos prevail later on Saturday against the host Lions, Montreal, Hamilton and Toronto will all be tied for first place.

And to think the Ticats began the year at 1-4.

"Believe it or not, one of the things I talked to the team about was that (being one win away from pulling into a first-place tie) has nothing to do with it,'' Ticat head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. "It's about us continuing to get better.

"The Argos were tied for first two weeks ago. The issue of who is going to end up with first in the Eastern Conference will probably come down the last few weeks. To me, the issue is you have to win your home games and we have a chance to tie our series (with Montreal)."

Which is very doable given the roll the Ticats have been on and McPherson's period of inactivity.

Continuity has become one of the Als' trademarks, but for the third time in as many games a different quarterback will start.

The team's three losses at the midway point represent the amount the Als lost for the entire year last season.

Montreal's leader on special teams, Walter Spencer, is lying in a Montreal hospital recovering from stab wounds to the chest.

The stage is set for the Ticats to pounce on the opportunity, but nothing is a given because nothing has been earned.

At least not yet.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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