Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-5)
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats enter the 2012 edition of the Labour Day Classic looking to bounce back following a difficult 31-29 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes last weekend. The loss in Montreal extended the Ticats losing streak to a season long, three consecutive games. The Tiger-Cats continue to struggle on the defensive side of the football as they have surrendered a total of 261 points so far this season, the most given up by any CFL team in 2012. The Ticats have allowed over thirty points in six out of the team’s eight games so far this season. The bright spots for the Ticats on the defensive side of the football are Jamall Johnson and Renauld Williams, who currently rank third and fourth amongst tacklers in the CFL. Jamall Johnson has also made an impact with the Tiger-Cats special teams units as he ranks fifth in the CFL in special teams tackles with ten.
The Tiger-Cats offence has generated plenty of excitement heading into this all-important Labour Day matchup. Henry Burris currently ranks second in the CFL in passing with an impressive 2,456 yards on the season. In the Ticats first meeting with the Argonauts, Burris threw for just 181 yards but he managed to record three touchdown passes in the football game and led the Tiger-Cats to a 36-27 victory over their East Division rivals. Ticats wide receiver, Chris Williams tied a CFL record with his fifth kick return touchdown of the season last weekend against the Montreal Alouettes. Williams returned a Sean Whyte punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of last week’s loss to the Als. He is now tied with Henry “Gizmo” Williams’ for the CFL single-season record, which he set back in 1991. In the Tiger-Cats week three showdown against the Argonauts, Williams recorded three touchdowns in the football game and was a major factor in the outcome of round one of “The Battle of Ontario”. Williams returned a Noel Prefontaine missed field goal 119 yards for a touchdown in the Ticats victory. He also recorded a 38-yard touchdown reception and returned a Noel Prefontaine punt 88 yards for his second return touchdown of the game.
Running back, Avon Cobourne will likely make his second consecutive start of the season for the Tiger-Cats on Monday afternoon. Cobourne replaced injured running back, Chevon Walker in the Tiger-Cats starting lineup last weekend against the Alouettes and he displayed that he still has the ability to be a major playmaker in the Ticats offence. The 33-year old, seven-year CFL veteran recorded 94 yards of total offence last weekend and also managed to record his first touchdown of the season in the football game.
Despite the Tiger-Cats current three game losing streak, they somehow remain in striking distance of top spot in the CFL’s East Division. The Cats’ are currently only one game behind the Argonauts for second place in the division and this home-and-home series will certainly have major playoff implications. If the Tiger-Cats can manage to defeat the Argonauts’ in the back-to-back games, they will propel to second place in the Eastern Division and will win the season series over their archrivals from Toronto.
Toronto Argonauts (4-4)
The Toronto Argonauts enter the 2012 Labour Day Classic looking to avenge their week three loss to the Ticats and even up the season series in “The Battle of Ontario”. The Argos’ will also look to bounce back following one of their worst performances of the season last Monday night against the Edmonton Eskimos at Rogers Centre. The Argos’ continue to struggle to find consistency on both sides of the football as they enter this crucial home-and-home series with the Ticats. The Argonauts’ have shown glimpses of brilliance over the course of this CFL season but they have struggled to put forth a complete 60-minute effort on a consistent basis.
Ricky Ray and the Argos’ offence struggled mightily last Monday night against a stiff Eskimos defence. Ray threw two interceptions in the football game and added a fumble as he attempted to scramble out of the pocket on a passing play. Ray has been the central figure for much of the scrutiny and criticism put towards the Argonaut offence so far this season. The Argos’ brought in Ray for the sole purpose of helping to lead this team to a Grey Cup title this November and he has yet to deliver a truly stellar performance in a Double Blue uniform. Ray threw for 232 yards and an interception in the Argos’ week three loss to the Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium. He will definitely need to be better this week if the Argonauts’ hope to be victorious in the final Labour Day Classic in Ivor Wynne.
In his second start of the season, Chad Kackert recorded 89 yards of total offence including a 25-yard touchdown run on a third down play in the third quarter. In the Argos week three loss to the Ticats, former running back, Cory Boyd rushed for a career-best 168 yards against a weak Hamilton defence. The Argos’ may want to exploit the Ticats defensive woes by running the football with Kackert. A solid run game would also open up the Argonauts’ passing attack. Not to mention, a strong running game would also add confidence to an offensive line that has been struggling of late.
There has been plenty of speculation that Maurice Mann or Ken-Yon Rambo might get their first start of the season on Monday afternoon against the Ticats. Jason Barnes has been underachieving so far this season and Head Coach, Scott Milanovich may want to add a new weapon into the offence for this important Labour Day matchup.
The Argos’ just recently signed Ken-Yon Rambo and it is evident that he is still adjusting to his new team. Therefore, this may be the opportunity for Maurice Mann to re-connect with Ricky Ray and beat his former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the process.
Much has been made of the Argonauts’ inconsistent play so far this season. However, the Argos’ defence deserves credit as they have been absolutely fantastic and have proved to be one of the best units in the entire CFL. Despite their horrible performance last week against the Eskimos, the Argos’ defence has surrendered thirty points on only two occasions during this 2012 season. Middle Linebacker, Robert McCune currently ranks fifth in the CFL in tackles with 45 and Jordan Younger is currently tied for the league lead in interceptions with three. The Argonauts’ also rank in the top third in over ten different defensive categories.
The most costly mistakes for the Argonauts’ in their week three loss to the Ticats came at the hands of their special teams units. The Argos’ surrendered two kick return touchdowns against Tiger-Cats wide receiver/returner, Chris Williams. The special teams unit will certainly need to do a better job this week as giving up over 200 yards in the return game does not result in many victories.
Monday afternoon will also mark the final time that the Argos and Ticats do battle in Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Argos enter the final Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne with a 1-3 record against the Ticats over the past couple of CFL seasons.
Following this game, the Argos’ and Tiger-Cats will travel back to Toronto to conclude their mini home-and-home series at the Rogers Centre on September 8th.
– Daniele Franceschi –