OTTAWA — Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the Ottawa Redblacks.
Ottawa dropped its fifth straight game after losing 24-7 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Wednesday night at TD Place, and lost its first and second string quarterbacks to injury. The result also marked the 11th straight home loss for the Redblacks dating back to July 2019.
The win allowed the Tiger-Cats (4-3-0) to take sole possession of first place in the East as third-string quarterback, David Watford, picked up his second straight win on a rain-filled night.
Watford, who finished the night 15 for 25 for 115 yards and one touchdown, is extremely grateful for the opportunity and feels very fortunate to have some success.
“We have a lot of willpower and a great fighting spirit,” said Watford. “This team is a real family and we play together…we just try to be us, play our game and let the chips fall where they may.”
Dominique Davis started the game for the Redblacks and it was a struggle from the start. The low point came early in the third with the Redblacks on Hamilton’s 23, the deepest they had gotten to that point. Davis was picked off and Jumal Rolle ran back an 87-yard TD to give Hamilton a 21-0 lead. Davis chased him down and was injured on the play and could be seen hobbling on the sideline.
Davis finished the night 6 for 14 for 50 yards and one interception.
Veteran Matt Nichols came in and was 7 for 10 for 68 yards before he too was injured. Nichols had run the ball and as he fell to the ground appeared to injure his left wrist as he was seen wincing in pain as he left the field.
That left receiver Nate Behar to finish the game. He hadn’t played QB since high school, but does take occasional snaps in practice so it didn’t come as a complete shock to be thrown in.
This was supposed to be the game that turned things around for Ottawa as Hamilton was playing its third-string QB, was missing a few key players and coming off a very short week, but things didn’t go as planned – again.
Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice made no excuses and reiterated that there have been changes every week to try and find solutions and it has to be a next man up mentality, but with that comes a lack of consistency.
“I know on the offensive line we’ve played six games and had six different guys starting so that’s certainly not as consistent, but we still have to move the ball,” said LaPolice. “We’re all in the same building, we still have to be able to produce so you can’t make that as an excuse…I’m not going to use that as an excuse.”
The first-year coach admitted the struggles are a personal challenge.
“Obviously, I’m frustrated,” said LaPolice. “I was very disappointed. We need to respond more. My job is to now get the guys back up. I’ll stew and then get ready to get the guys back up, focused and ready to play on Tuesday.”
The Redblacks had one highlight on the night, which came early in the fourth quarter as DeVonte Dedmon had a 63-yard punt return to finally get Ottawa on the scoreboard to make it 21-7.
Dedmon's play was one of the few bright spots on the night, but with time winding down he fumbled a punt return allowing Hamilton to recover the ball on Ottawa’s eight-yard line which resulted in a 14-yard field goal.
Hamilton can relate to Ottawa’s problems, but have found a way to persevere through challenging times.
“I’m just so happy for them,” said Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “As a coach you’re always pushing so you’re not going to be completely satisfied, but it’s been a tough stretch. We knew it was on the calendar and we’ve battled quite a bit of adversity, quite a few injuries, but I can’t say enough about the organization as a whole.”
The Tiger-Cats led 14-0 at the half and Ottawa showed no signs of being able to rally a comeback.
The Redblacks had just two first downs through the first half, both coming in the second quarter, and didn’t have a single offensive play on Hamilton’s side of the field.
Hamilton’s first half scoring came off 40- and 50-yard field goals and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Steven Dunbar early in the second quarter.
Things could have been uglier, but Taylor Bertolet also kicked three field goals wide and was only able to salvage a single point on his first of the night.
All-Star receiver Brad Sinopoli was honored at halftime as the 33-year-old announced his retirement earlier this fall.
Ottawa is back in action next Tuesday as they host the Edmonton Elks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept 22, 2021.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press