'Gades facing tough decisions

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

And now, the end is near. Thankfully.

The Renegades will face the final curtain Saturday, when the Hamilton Ticats use Frank Clair Stadium as a stepping stone to a playoff game that, one year ago, president/part owner Brad Watters promised his team would be in.

But things have obviously not gone the Renegades' way this season. For the most part, the breaks they do get are to bones. And so in one week's time, Watters and whichever of his partners (bet Bill Smith) lead the team into next season will start making some key personnel decisions.

Perhaps the biggest will concern the future of coach Joe Paopao, who could still be offered a contract with the stipulation he replaces some of his assistants.

'MULLIGAN' FOR PAOPAO?

Around the league, many believe Ottawa's 2004 season was an aberration and that Paopao should be given another chance. A "mulligan," as one put it on the weekend.

Others say the Renegades should offer Eric Tillman another contract as director of player personnel, pointing to young, promising players he brought in such as Brad Banks, Jason Armstead, John Turntine, Syniker Taylor and Kyries Hebert.

In the U.S. on a scouting trip, Tillman wouldn't comment on his future, but it's clear he'd like to see through the job of building a winner in Ottawa. Meanwhile, Paopao insisted he saw "a lot of positives" when reviewing tape from Saturday's 52-21 loss to Montreal.

Atop the list was the performance of Banks, who, aside from a couple of errors, showed well in his first pro start that came against a very strong defence.

Banks is expected to start next season as Kerry Joseph's backup. "Kerry's our guy," said Paopao. "But like I tell them, don't come in happy to be No. 2. Push for a starting job. That's what it's all about."

As for Saturday's game, Paopao will be pushing his men to finish this sour season on a positive in front of a "Pack The Park" crowd that will probably now settle in somewhere around 23,000 -- a far cry from the 40,000 the Renegades had hoped to draw when they announced it as a promotion supporting the United Way.

While Pat Woodcock (toe) is unlikely to play, of more significance is the status of linebacker Kelly Wiltshire. The first-ever Renegade is expected to see his string of consecutive games played stop at 143 (plus nine post-season games) as he is suffering from problems in his right knee.


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