The Renegades will drop back in the first steps of their own Hail Mary attempt tonight.
Beginning with a game against the Hamilton Ticats at a place visitors have occasionally regarded as "Never" Wynne Stadium, their mandate is clear: To make the CFL playoffs, they need three victories and at least a brief prayer.
Knowing full well they need to complete this season-ending long bomb, the phrase "do or die" was used by players in most interviews at Frank Clair Stadium this week.
"We've just got to win these three," said defensive lineman Marc Pilon. "We've got to win this next one. If not, it's over."
Val St. Germain's sentiments were similar.
"You really have to shut out what other teams are doing, who wins and who loses. All we can do is take care of what we can take care of, and that's Hamilton," said the veteran offensive lineman. "Regardless what happens, we pretty much have to win out the rest of the season."
Just as the Renegades could run the table and still finish out of the playoffs, it's also possible they could still qualify for the post-season by losing tonight. But then you're starting to count on cashing lottery tickets. Not only would they have to recover from another huge fumble to win home games against Montreal and Toronto, they'd also be depending on either the Stampeders (three left) or Roughriders (two left) to drop their remaining games. Those two clubs play Sunday at Taylor Field.
BATTLING THE WEST
If Ottawa shocks all and wins its last three, it won't be enough should the Als and Argos gain even one more single point, Saskatchewan wins its final two and the Stamps take 2-of-3.
"We're fighting the western opponents, basically," Pilon conceded.
The Renegades are coming off a 43-21 home victory over the Ticats, which ended a six-game losing streak that put them in this mess. They also have the distinction as being one of two visiting teams to win convincingly in Hamilton this season. The Ticats are 3-4 in their own surroundings, including losses of less than a field goal (23-21 to Saskatchewan) and less than a touchdown (28-22 to B.C.).
The Stamps pounded them 39-17 in the only beating they took before their faithful fans worse than the 28-12 comeuppance delivered by Ottawa Aug. 6.
"There's two ways to look at it: We know what they do best, what we need to attack, and vice-versa," coach Joe Paopao said when asked if there's advantage in playing Hamilton in consecutive games. "We like the matchups, we've had a really good week of practice, guys are healthy and moving around well and hey, we're ready to go. We've got a lot of things at stake. They want to win, but they're also going to look at different guys."
EAKIN LIKELY TO START
The key "different guy" will likely be quarterback Kevin Eakin, a highly touted 24-year-old expected to make his first CFL start. (Now Renegade fan, before counting that as a big plus think back to a game in Calgary on Sept 22 and how a third-stringer by the name of Danny Wimprine came off the bench to steamroll your team in a 45-23 disaster.)
"He did some nifty things with the ball," linebacker Donnavan Carter said of Eakin, with whom he practised when he was a Ticat just three weeks ago. "He's going to stay in the pocket, though. He has some movement, but he's not like a (Casey) Printers or a (Marcus) Brady, a high-level speed guy who can take it all the way. "
When Pilon says the Renegades could still win it all, he has lived such a minor miracle. In 2001, he was a member of a Calgary team that turned an 8-10 season into a playoff run that ended with a Grey Cup victory.
"We're hoping for losses (from other teams) and another win, to build some momentum," he said. "That's how it was in Calgary. It was a young team, too. You never know, right? Our quarterback's hitting his stride, and our offensive line is solidifying, so, as long as we use this as a good stepping stone .... but don't look past it. We can't look past it."
Added St. Germain: "We won four in a row earlier in the season . We can put some wins together. We can do it and we have to do it. Simple as that."