In a game for the ages, Ticat receiver Bakari Grant came of age, emerging as a playmaker when plays had to be made.
His second-quarter touchdown grab in double coverage when Kevin Glenn threw into the smallest of windows was textbook: Grant using his 6-foot-4 frame to create separation and finishing the sequence by showcasing hands any receiver of any vintage would appreciate.
At no time during the regular season was he able to post a 100-yard receiving game, which made Sunday’s performance in the East semifinal against Montreal all the more remarkable, which is saying a lot given how remarkable the game would become.
Just before regulation, it was a Grant reception that placed the Ticats in field goal range, only to be denied when lack of execution and lack of composure led to a time-count penalty and ultimately a missed Justin Medlock attempt that would force overtime.
In overtime, yet another Grant catch put the Ticats in the score zone, where they could capitalize on Quinton Porter’s second plunge on the afternoon.
All told, Grant would haul in a team-high seven receptions for 130 yards.
“Unbelievable,’’ began fellow rookie reciever Chris Williams, who is one of Grant’s roommates and closest friends. “Bakari was awesome for us.
“That’s my buddy. We’re always together and we’re always doing things together.”
One of the themes heading into Montreal, where Hamilton escaped with a pulsating 52-44 win, was inexperience and how much of a factor it would play out against the playoff-tested, two-time defending Grey Cup champion Als.
It turned out that Hamilton was able to match every blow and was more than willing to go toe to toe with the Als, who had no answer for Grant.
After dropping a sure touchdown pass, Williams was able to settle in and would make plays in helping the Ticats win a playoff game for the first time in 10 years.
By CFL rules, teams have to attempt an two-point convert in overtime and it was Williams who would find himself on the receiving end.
When Hamilton scored the game’s first major, it was off misdirection that featured Williams going in motion, drawing defenders that helped create a lane for Marcus Thigpen, who would rush 50 yards to give the Ticats a 7-3 lead.
“We know what the older guys are capable of doing,’’ veteran slotback Dave Stala said. “What we needed was for the young guys to follow (the veterans’ lead) in the playoffs.
“Bakari and Chris stepped up.”
Stala was on the receiving end of a Porter touchdown pass after Jamall Johnson picked off Anthony Calvillo, the first of two turnovers by the record-breaking quarterback in the opening half.
As much as the Ticats relished the win, they know what lies ahead and how completely different Sunday’s challenge will be in Winnipeg.
Weather, for starters, will play a huge factor, especially the wind.
In wind games, consuming as much clock as possible is vital, making it virtually impossible to complete any downfield throws.
But as long as Glenn continues to get time playing behind an offensive line that was completely overlooked in the aftermath of the East semi, plays will present themselves, opportunities Hamilton must seize.
Unlike Montreal’s battered defence, the Bombers are well rested and are much deeper in the back end.
And unlike last Sunday, there is no way Hamilton and Winnipeg will combine to score five touchdowns in one quarter, which is precisely what unfolded in the final period before overtime.
For those who missed it, some 330 yards were produced in the 12-minute period and 38 points.
There were no turnovers, no sacks and absolutely no plays being made on defence.
Offensively, the Bombers and Ticats will be lucky to duplicate the fourth-quarter fireworks in an entire game.