LIVESTREAM PPV: CFL – Labour Day Classic – Toronto Argonauts @Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Sept. 3, 6:30p (12:30a Sept. 4 CET)

HAMILTON — A rivalry as old as the Canadian Football League itself renews pleasantries on Monday evening at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field, where the hometown Tiger-Cats host the Toronto Argonauts in the first leg of a critical home-and-home series.

Both the Ticats and Boatmen were plagued by inconsistency in the first half of their respective seasons; Hamilton’s record sits at 4-5, with signature wins against Edmonton (twice) and Winnipeg, while Toronto’s 3-6 record includes a nifty two-game win streak that was unexpectedly snapped last week in Montreal by the last-place Alouettes.

June Jones’s Hamilton outfit walked Edmonton off via last-second Lirim Hajrullahu field goal, but it was far from a dominant performance and the Tabbies will have to clean things offensively to have success against the Argos.

Toronto, meanwhile, was left to answer tough questions after falling 25-22 in la belle province to the Als in Week 11; Marc Trestman’s team appeared to have rounded the corner with a pair of wins, only for the offence to stall and the defence to allow second-year pro Antonio Pipkin and Montreal’s unheralded offence 300-plus pass yards.

Monday night’s matchup is simple: Two teams — probably the two which will battle for the second playoff spot in the East, with a crossover looking increasingly likely — looking for a definitive surge to begin the second half of the season.

The film has been analyzed, the tough questions asked and the reality is the Toronto Argonauts simply did not play a good football game in Montreal.

As with any Marc Trestman-coached team, the Argos’ loss last Friday has been flushed and the team is firmly focused on the challenge ahead in Hamilton.

“We didn’t have a good first half (of the season), so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Toronto quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson told Argonauts.ca. “This is the start of playoff football, so we’ve got to crank it up and get going. We know they don’t like us, and we don’t like them.”

With the two squads separated by a single win in the East Division standings, all parties involved know the importance of Monday’s grudge match.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency,” said offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl. “It’s heightened because of where we stand in the standings, it’s Labour Day, we’re just past the halfway point. We’re basically jumping into the playoffs.”

As for the varied weapons present on the Hamilton offence, Argos linebacker Justin Tuggle thinks pressure will be key.

“I think they’ve got athletes all over the field,” explained Tuggle, a second-year defender out of Kansas State. “(They) like to spread the ball around, make you run and tackle them in space. We have to go out there and put pressure on them and make some plays.”

Roster-wise, receiver Myles White will make his Argonaut debut; the 28-year-old Louisiana Tech product spent time with Winnipeg during the pre-season, and prior to that was south of the border exploring NFL opportunities.

“Coach Trestman does a great job of keeping you patient and understanding the process. It makes it easier as a player, because you see the progression,” said White, the twin brother of injured Alouettes defensive back Mitchell White. “It’s been a good nine weeks (since I played, but) I’ve been preparing, been here seven weeks, trying to do my best to get in where I fit in (and) learn from S.J. (Green) and Armanti (Edwards).”

In Ticats camp, the mood is one of excitement ahead of Monday’s Labour Day showdown with the regional rival Argonauts.

With plenty more than just pride on the line — Montreal’s win over Ottawa on Friday threw a wrench into the East Division standings — Hamilton is aware of just how important Monday’s game could prove to be.

“Labour Day’s definitely a big part of the season, and getting to that midway point. Obviously with the rivalry with Toronto, and our fans here, it’s a big game,” centre Mike Filer told Ticats.ca. “You’re always watching what’s going on throughout the league, (but) at the end of the day, we control what we control.

“We do what we do, (and) if we go out and execute and play like we’ve been playing, we’ll be alright.”

One player to keep an eye on Monday will be Frankie Williams: The 25-year-old return man will be handling defensive duties at halfback in addition to the special teams.

“It’s a mentality thing, as long as you prepare well you’ll end up good,” said Williams, a Purdue product who already took one punt to the house earlier this season, of having two roles comes Monday. “Take your time, you’re here for a reason: Believe in the play call, stick to your leverage, know the defence (and) play fast and physical.”

After spending time with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016, Williams has relished the opportunity to get back on the field this season with Hamilton — and takes the responsibility that comes with a rivalry game seriously.

“It’s just another opportunity to play with the brothers…(I’m) looking forward to laying out my effort for the older guys and organization,” continued Williams, who is averaging 9.8 yards-per-punt return. “It’s another game, but added intensity. The stadium should be rocking, and it’ll be Ticats all over the field.”

A familiar face will rotate back onto the offensive line for Hamilton this week, as Landon Rice — initially dealt to Montreal in the Johnny Manziel trade — was signed by the team this week and is listed behind standout rookie Darius Ciraco at right guard on the depth chart.

By The Numbers:

3:00 – Four of the last five Labour Day Classics have been decided in the final three minutes, though any statistics associated with recent editions of the game should be taken with a grain of salt: Jeremiah Masoliand McLeod Bethel-Thompson have a combined one LDC start between them.

Minus-17 – Combined turnover ratio between Hamilton (Minus-7) and Toronto (Minus-10), owners of the two worst marks in the CFL.

5,768 – Pass yards Masoli is on pace for, which would be the largest total in Ticats franchise history. The current holder? Henry Burris with 5,367 in 2012.

They say the CFL season truly begins on Labour Day Weekend.

While the players and coaches who have been hard at work since May would probably disagree, there is little doubt the East Division is heating up at this juncture of the season in 2018.

Montreal’s won two games on the hop, one of the Ticats and Argos could put a real dent into the other’s season with a sweep of the home-and-home series, and Ottawa no longer looks like the untouchable behemoth it initially did atop the division.

All those points just ratchet up the importance of Monday’s game — a contest that needs no added hype, but will have it this year anyways.

Buckle up, because Tim Hortons Field is going to be rocking.

– With files from Argonauts.ca/Ticats.ca

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2018 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL – Toronto Argonauts @Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Sept. 3, 6:30p (12:30a Sept. 4 CET)

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