Jermaine McElveen pumps up Tiger-Cats vs. Eskimos

Tiger-Cats defensive end Jermaine McElveen celebrates after sacking Alouettes quarterback Anthony...

Tiger-Cats defensive end Jermaine McElveen celebrates after sacking Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo (not shown) at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., Sept. 28, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 AM ET

HAMILTON - Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez isn’t much for fist-pumping exhortations and he isn’t a big believer in painting games as “must-win”.

Fortunately he had a Kenny Chesney video, and defensive lineman Jermaine McElveen around Wednesday to do it for him.

While a victory Friday in Edmonton won’t clinch a playoff spot for the Ticats, a loss could definitely doom their Grey Cup hopes. Five games remain. And McElveen says this is a team that can’t afford to lose. Not Friday. Not ever. Not again. Not all season!

“Man, every game is important but we put ourselves in this hole. Right now every game is a playoff game. Every game from now on is going to be a must win,” McElveen said, after the Ticats final practice before leaving for Edmonton. “It’s simple. We can’t lose another game.”

Despite being wildly inconsistent all year, McElveen believes this is a team capable of running the table.

“I’m not guaranteeing we will win (Friday) but,” he said, grinning, “if we play like we are capable, we should win.”

The trouble is the Ticats have been a horrid road team. They beat Edmonton 51-8 but that was at Ivor Wynne.

On the road, Hamilton has lost four in a row and they have been especially bad at Commonwealth Stadium. Nine of the Cats’ past 10 trips have ended in disappointment.

They haven’t won there since 2006.

“I didn’t realize our record was that bad going into Edmonton. But it’s going to stop this year. It’s gonna change,” vowed McElveen.

But, as much as the Ticats need a win, the Eskimos are equally desperate. They’re pretty much out of contention in the West Division but an Edmonton victory would put them a game up on Hamilton and in control of a cross-over playoff spot.

So it was, that when practice ended, the Ivor Wynne scoreboard lit up with Chesney’s Boys of Fall video. No. 1 on the country charts in 2010 it opens with Saints’ coach Sean Payton reminding his high school team in a passionate address that their Friday nights are fleeting, that their time in this game is short, and that the brotherhood they are enjoying won’t last forever.

How, Chesney’s tune asks, do they want to remember their last game? How do they want to go out?

As the video played, players stopped and soon almost all were gazing at the screen. Cortez admitted afterward he wasn’t certain if it would help.

“You never know. You hope they serve a purpose when you do these things but obviously you can’t see in everyone’s head. I know we had pretty good attention. Of course, probably half the guys haven’t seen the video either.”

“Not a country fan,” said receiver Chris Williams.

“Never heard of the guy (Chesney),” said linebacker Ricardo Colclough, who in nine pro seasons from the Pittsburgh Steelers, through Edmonton to Hamilton has been there, done that, and seen the video — although not specifically Chesney’s.

“Inspirational,” he said, chuckling. “It’s one of those things all coaches do. They all have gimmicks and I guess how you look at it depends on how long you’ve been around. But I remember high school and middle school coaches doing the same thing to inspire their guys.”

Whether it inspires the Ticats is debatable. What is clear is that while Cortez may be loath to admit it, the sound of music was just one more indication that this is a game his club cannot afford to lose.

“Obviously,” he said, “we understand the possiblity of the fourth-place team crossing over. Right now Edmonton and we have the same record. For both teams it puts a lot of value in winning this game.”


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