Ottawa REDBLACKS punch ticket to Grey Cup with dominant win over Hamilton Tiger-Cats

OTTAWA — The Ottawa REDBLACKS have punched their ticket to the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw with a dominant performance against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final on Sunday afternoon.

Led by quarterback Trevor Harris, who broke a CFL record for the most touchdown passes in a playoff game with six, the REDBLACKS defeated Hamilton 46-27 and will make the trip to Edmonton next week for the championship game.

Diontae Spencer scored two touchdowns for the home team while Marco Dubois, J.C. Beaulieu, Greg Ellingson and Brendan Gillanders all scored one of their own.

The REDBLACKS defence flexed their muscles at TD Place as well, forcing turnovers to set up both of Spencer’s touchdowns. Each of Anthony Cioffi and Jonathan Rose’s interceptions led to Spencer’s major scores. Sherrod Baltimore also picked off Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in the contest.

The Tiger-Cats hit the field first on the brisk Sunday afternoon at TD Place and the REDBLACKS defence held the visitors to a two-and-out.

On their first possession of the ball game that moved the REDBLACKS deep into Hamilton territory, Lewis Ward booted an 11-yard field goal to give the home team the lead in the first quarter. Harris made use of almost all of his offensive weapons on the 84-yard drive, as Greg Ellingson, Diontae Spencer, William Powell and Julian Feoli-Gudino all touched the ball on the way down the field leading to the three-point score.

It didn’t take long for the Tiger-Cats to respond of a field goal of their own, however.

On the very next drive of the ball game, just like Rick Campbell had done on the previous scoring drive, June Jones decided not to gamble on third-and-goal, sending out the kick team instead. Hamilton’s first score of the game was courtesy of Lirim Hajrullahu, who booted a nine-yarder through the uprights. The points was set up by a 73-yard drive that included a 22-yard catch from rookie receiver Justin Buren and running back Alex Green carried the rock three times, including a 22-yard gain.

As the first quarter was winding down, the REDBLACKS had to settle for a field goal once again. Ward was good on his 27-yard attempt, adding three more to Ottawa’s lead. 6-3 with 1:05 left in the first frame.

Spencer made the Ticats pay for a turnover, scoring the game’s first touchdown of the afternoon. Rookie Anthony Cioffi intercepted Masoli and on the very first play of the REDBLACKS series, Harris tossed to Spencer who bolted 22-yards and stretched into the end zone at the pylon for the score. Powell scored the two-point convert and the REDBLACKS took a 14-3 lead just a few minutes into the second quarter.

Hamilton moved the chains down the field but had to settle for their second field goal of the day. Hajrullahu was good from 18-yards out and the Ticats cut Ottawa’s lead to 14-6 with 6:52 left in the first half.

Momentum was on Ottawa’s side as the REDBLACKS weren’t done scoring in the first half.

Harris tossed a one-yard pass to a wide open J.C. Beaulieu deep in the end zone adding another touchdown to Ottawa’s lead. The six-point score, and an unsuccessful two-point convert, capped off a 74-yard drive and the home team took a 20-6 lead with 1:51 remaining before half time.

The REDBLACKS defence continued to flex their muscles in the first half, as Masoli tossed his second interception of the afternoon. Jonathan Rose returned the pick 59-yards and on the very first play of the REDBLACKS drive, just like the first interception earlier in the game, they made the Ticats pay. Harris found Spencer in the back of the end zone for the receiver’s second touchdown of the day and with Ward’s completed convert kick, Ottawa extended their lead to 27-6.

As the seconds ticked down in the first half, the Ticats scored their first major of the ball game, swinging the momentum back in their favour as the teams went to the locker room.

Mike Jones made a touchdown catch covered by Ottawa defenders with zeros on the clock for six points. The Ticats scoring drive was aided by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Rose, who was also disqualified for rough play: physical abuse of an official. At the half, Ottawa held a 27-13 lead.

Harris finished the first 30 minutes with three touchdowns and 163 yards while Masoli had a touchdown, two interceptions and 140 yards through the air.

Any momentum that the Ticats had hoped to carry over into the second half was erased by an early REDBLACKS touchdown.

Ottawa marched down the field 69-yards on their first possession of the half and capped off the drive with a 10-yard pass to Marco Dubois, who waltzed right into the end zone untouched for the score. Ward missed his convert kick and the REDBLACKS extended their lead to 33-13.

Hamilton added a field goal on their first drive of the second half, as Hajrullahu booted a 44-yarder through the uprights. 33-16 Ottawa with 9:35 left in the third frame.

A promising drive for the visiting team ended with another field goal to cut Ottawa’s lead with five minutes to go in the third frame. Hajrullahu’s 15-yarder made it 33-19 to cap off the 59-yard series.

Ottawa added another touchdown as the Ticats defence continued to struggle to figure out how to stop the REDBLACKS offence. Brendan Gillanders scored his first career touchdown to cap off the 75-yard drive extending the home team’s lead to 39-19. Harris’ fifth passing touchdown of the afternoon tied a record for most in a playoff game.

With a touchdown pass to Greg Ellingson in the fourth quarter, Harris broke the CFL record for the most touchdown passes in a playoff game with his sixth of the contest. That score extended the REDBLACKS lead to 46-19 with 13:33 left to play.

Masoli called his own number, running out of the pocket and bolted 12 yards into the end zone to score the Tabbies second touchdown of the afternoon. Including the two-point convert, caught by Bralon Addison, Hamilton cut Ottawa’s lead to 46-27 with 7:35 left.

Sherrod Baltimore added another interception for the REDBLACKS late in the game as Ottawa continued their dominance and walked away with the win.

The REDBLACKS await the winner of the Western Final between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders later on Sunday afternoon to see who they will meet next weekend in the Grey Cup.

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