HAMILTON — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are set to host the Calgary Stampeders at Tim Hortons Field to kick off Friday Night Football action in the CFL.
Hamilton will be looking to bounce back after a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the division rival Toronto Argonauts in Week 6. Their loss to the Argos came at a high price, as starting quarterback Dane Evans will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks after sustaining a lower body injury late in the game.
Following the injury to Evans, the Tabbies turned to third year CFL quarterback David Watford, who managed 78 yards passing yards on six completions in the contest. Watford has been listed as this week’s starter on the team’s official depth chart that was issued on Thursday.
Watford played his college football for the Hampton Pirates in the NCAA, completing 167 of his 315 passing attempts for 21 touchdowns and 2,088 yards in 2015.
The former Pirate entered the league in 2018 and has dropped back 50 times, completing 26 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown. The Ticats pivot has also carried the ball 34 times totalling 133 yards and six touchdowns.
The Ticats locker room isn’t worried about who is under centre and are more than familiar with the importance of staying prepared and being ready when your number is called.
“It’s definitely the next man up mentality for this team,” said Hamilton receiver Nikola Kalinic. “When we have guys going down, it’s very unfortunate and we hate to see it happen, but we can’t dwell on that.”
The opposing Stampeders offence will once again feature Bo Levi Mitchell starting at quarterback.
The two-time Grey Cup champion made his return to the Calgary line up in Week 6 with a thrilling performance and more importantly for Calgary, a 32-16 win over their rival Edmonton Elks. In last week’s Battle of Alberta, Mitchell completed 23 of his 42 passing attempts throwing for 276 yards and a touchdown.
“Bo Levi is Bo Levi, you know what type of guy he is when he’s on the field,” said Hamilton’s Ja’Gared Davis. “Calgary is never out of the game as long as they have Bo Levi at quarterback.”
The Calgary offence has been one of the most electric passing attacks in Canadian football as we approach the halfway mark of the season. As a team, the Stampeders have a league-leading 1,763 yard through the air.
Kamar Jorden has been the most threatening pass-catcher on a weekly basis for the Red and White and will certainly be a big part of the offensive game plan as they prepare for Hamilton. On the season, Jorden has caught 37 of his 49 targets and leads all receivers in yards with 516. That being said, Jorden is looking for something beyond the stat sheet.
“I haven’t finished a season since I’ve been up here,” said Jorden of his performance. “All of the stats and the mid-season stats are good, but I want to be able to say that at the end of the year I’m still standing and standing with my team.”
In addition to an impressive passing attack, the Stampeders have found success when running the ball. Ka’Deem Carey has rushed 68 times for the Red and White, running for 339 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Carey’s four rushing majors lead all CFL running backs.
Calgary has proved to be especially efficient running the ball when in scoring situations. Their five rushing touchdowns place them among the league’s leaders in ground-game scores.
The Black and Gold will be relying on the shutdown nature of their defence to contain an explosive Calgary offence.
The recent play of the Hamilton defence has been physical and fast paced, giving their team opportunities to win games. Through the first six weeks of CFL play, the Tabbies have forced nine turnovers, five interceptions and have held teams to an average of just 19 points per game.
Calgary has made it apparent that they are going to utilize their rushing attack when in scoring situations. The Ticats defence has been stellar against teams in the red zone this season. They have allowed just two rushing scores, the fewest among any team in the league.
The Stamps aggressive offensive play and ability to make plays downfield with their receivers is something the Ticats defence will be aware of. Hamilton’s head coach Orlondo Steinauer maintains that execution of the game plan will be crucial in securing a win.
“At the end of the day there’s always a test at the end of every week and the test will be on game day,” said Steinauer. “The game will always come down to execution.”
Nearing the halfway mark of the season, both teams enter Friday night needing a win. Mitchell and the Stampeders are looking for their second-straight road win and the Ticats look to their backup quarterback in Watford to defend home field in the Hammer.
Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday night and can be watched on TSN, RDS and ESPN+ or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.