No, Renauld Williams did not see this coming.
Did not, when the 2012 Canadian Football League regular season started, figure he would be standing on the field at Ivor Wynne Stadium following a practice in mid-October acknowledging that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats can’t afford to lose another game, even though three remain on the schedule.
“I knew there would be some growing pains with the new coaching staff and some new players, and it is never good right off the bat (as teams adjust),” Williams said. “I didn’t think it would not be good for so long.”
Individually, there are some Tiger-Cats who have fared just fine. Williams, the burly linebacker, is second in the CFL with 85 tackles. Quarterback Henry Burris has thrown for less yards than only Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo. Chris Williams has toppled the 1,000-yard mark in receiving. Luca Congi has missed only three field goals this year.
But in the game of football, success depends so much on how well the guy next to you, and the guy next to him, and so on, plays. The Ticats have had their share of injuries as all teams do, but the jelling that many figured would happen in Steeltown never firmed up.
Remember, with additions such as Burris and receiver Andy Fantuz, this was to be the year that the Ticats moved past mediocrity and into the upper echelon of the eight-team league. But rather than permanently shed the areas around .500, which were enough to get them into the playoffs the past three years, the Ticats have fallen to levels that they had mostly to themselves during much of the 2000s.
Head coach George Cortez probably wouldn’t admit it, but there have to have been more than a few sleepless nights during his first year on the job.
So the Ticats, with five victories in 15 games, will find themselves in Calgary on Saturday night in a game against the Stampeders essentially requiring a victory to give themselves a faint hope of getting to the post-season for the fourth consecutive November.
They’re going to hope that the Argonauts, who play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the Edmonton Eskimos, who visit the B.C. Lions and have designs on the crossover spot, both lose on Friday night.
The Argos are four points up on the Ticats in the standings, as are the Eskimos.
Hamilton doesn’t control its own destiny when so much has to happen in games that do not involve them. They held a team meeting this week, if only to remind to themselves that playing hard to every whistle is their lone option. For an outfit that has lost three of its past four games, it’s getting a little late to start picking up new habits.
“Urgency is what is needed,” Renauld Williams said. “It’s life or death right now. We lose, and we kiss our playoff hopes goodbye. My mentality is, we have to go in there and kick Calgary’s butt or we go home. I have always made the playoffs. To go home, I don’t want to have that feeling.”
What the Ticats know without asking is that few observers expect them to win in Calgary, which is not shocking considering their current record and an 0-7 mark in Cowtown since 2004.
“The message (to the team) is we have a chance to probably prove a lot of people wrong by going out and winning in Calgary,” Cortez said. “If we win, it will give ourselves opportunities as the season closes out.
“I told the players I don’t think there are not a lot of people involved in the league who are giving us a chance to go out there and win. I don’t believe that and I certainly hope they don’t believe it.”