Optimism abounds in Steeltown

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

HAMILTON -- With the preliminaries now in the past, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have turned their attention to the football future.

In a town that craves a winner, the Ticats insist their roster is good enough and deep enough to make noise in the CFL.

Two pre-season wins against the accursed Argos, including last night's 21-11 victory in the exhibition finale, have provided glimpses and cause for optimism on a team that is turning the page with a roster dotted with new faces.

"I feel good going into the season,'' tailback/slotback/returner Corey Holmes proclaimed. "Everyone is taking accountability, everyone wants to do better and everyone wants to win."

Winning has been elusive in Steeltown and even when the hometown Tabbies managed to restore a sense of credibility two years ago, it proved fleeting.

With Holmes, who is very fleet of foot, a new offensive co-ordinator in Joe Paopao, a new quarterback in Jason Maas, a new running back in Josh Ranek, there is hope in Hamilton.

"It's all about jelling and getting every player on the same page,'' offensive lineman George Hudson said. "We're getting better, but it's not going to happen overnight."

Hudson emerged with Paopao and Ranek from the ashes that was the Ottawa Renegades.

There are other notable newcomers on offence, which Holmes feels can average a minimum 28 points by spreading the football and getting everyone involved.

On defence, linebackers Bobby Brooks and halfback Tad Kornegay have made an impression and will be tough to cut as CFL teams whittle their rosters by today's deadline.

"This team went shopping in the off-season by opening the pocket book,'' Hudson said.

The Ticats practised as hard as they played in outscoring the Argos 52-14 in the pre-season. The teams meet at Rogers Centre next Saturday in the curtain raiser for both teams.

While neither team was about to unveil their offensive or defensive game plans last night, it was nonetheless physical.

For Hamilton, starting left tackle Jamal Powell hurt an ankle, while backup fullback Gilles Lezi damaged a knee.

Of course, the biggest cuts occur today when head Greg Marshall and his staff reduce the roster.


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