Suspension costs Ticats specialteams dynamo for rematch with Redblacks


They’re already minus their starting quarterback, and now the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won’t have their top special-teams threat for their rematch with the Ottawa Redblacks.

The CFL suspended receiver/kick-returner Brandon Banks for two games Wednesday after he tested positive for methylenedioxyamphetamine. It’s a stimulant known as MDA that’s closely related to ecstasy.

That means the the five-foot-seven, 157-pound Banks won’t play Friday night when Hamilton (6-9) visits Ottawa (7-7-1) to complete their crucial home-and-home series. The Redblacks won last Friday’s game 30-29 to move three points ahead of the Ticats atop the East Division.

Banks will also miss Hamilton’s Oct. 28 home game versus the Edmonton Eskimos (8-7). He’ll be eligible to return Nov. 5 when the Ticats host the Montreal Alouettes (4-11) in their regular-season finale.

Banks has 29 catches for 355 yards and four TDs this season. Last year, the two-time CFL all-star had four punt-return TDs, one shy of the single-season mark.

Jeremiah Masoli will make his second straight start for Hamilton in place of incumbent Zach Collaros (concussion). Masoli was 25-of-32 passing for 278 yards and three TDs in last week’s game but also had two interceptions in the Ticats’ third straight loss.

But the game’s most controversial play as a ruling from the command centre the CFL said later was a mistake.

Hamilton led 28-27 in the fourth quarter when Ottawa receiver Greg Ellingson appeared to make a catch over the middle before losing the ball as he went down. The Ticats challenged the play, feeling Ellingson had fumbled but the command centre ruled an incomplete pass, allowing the Redblacks to kick a field goal to go ahead 30-28 with less than six minutes to play.

On Saturday, Glen Johnson, the CFL’s vice-president of football, said replay official Jeff Harbin made a mistake and should’ve ruled that Ellingson made the catch. With the win, Ottawa clinched a playoff berth.

Hamilton would’ve secured a post-season spot with a victory and assumed first in the East Division.

So not only must Hamilton win the rematch to clinch a playoff berth – second place in the East and home field for the conference semifinal – but also to keep its hopes for first alive.

The miscue overshadowed a stellar performance by Ottawa’s Henry Burris. The CFL’s outstanding player last year was 27-of-39 passing for 393 yards and a TD while running for two touchdowns.

Pick – Ottawa.

Toronto Argonauts versus Calgary Stampeders (Friday night)

Toronto (5-11) should know by halftime if it’s playing for a post-season berth or next year. A Hamilton win in Ottawa would eliminate the Argos from playoff contention. Ricky Ray returns under centre for the Double Blue after missing six games with a fractured rib and deflated lung. The club has lost five straight and nine of its last 10 overall. Not only does Calgary (14-1-1) have the CFL’s best record but is 8-0 at McMahon Stadium. The Stampeders have clinched first in the West but winning out would give them the best regular-season record in league history.

Pick – Calgary.

Montreal Alouettes versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Saturday afternoon)

It was a rather tumultuous week for Montreal (4-11) with receivers Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford being released and starter Rakeem Cato benched for rookie Vernon Adams. Carter was Montreal’s leading receiver (61 catches, 938 yards, five TDs) but had no catches in last weekend’s 22-8 loss to Calgary. Interestingly enough, Stafford is Carter’s cousin. Cato was 13-of-29 passing versus the Stamps for just 124 yards. Joe McKnight ran for 150 yards in leading Saskatchewan (5-10) to a 29-11 road win in Toronto last week. It was the Riders’ fourth straight victory and there’s no reason to think they won’t keep it going on home soil.

Pick – Saskatchewan.

Edmonton Eskimos versus B.C. Lions (Saturday night)

An interesting game featuring teams heading in opposite directions. B.C. (9-6) has dropped two straight – both to Winnipeg – to stand third in the West, just two points ahead of Edmonton (8-7), which has registered three consecutive wins. The Eskimos won the previous meeting 27-23 at Commonwealth Stadium. The Lions can’t afford to finish in a three-way tie with the Esks and Winnipeg as those teams hold the advantage over the Leos. Edmonton is 5-4 within the West Division while B.C. is 2-5. The Lions have the CFL’s second-best home record (4-3) but road teams are also 36-32-1 this season.

Pick – Edmonton.

Last week: 2-2.

Overall: 40-28-1.

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