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Veteran kicker Congi enjoying banner first season with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

09/27/2012 12:11 EDT | Updated 11/27/2012 05:12 EST
HAMILTON - It has been a roller-coaster season for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but one to remember for kicker Luca Congi.

The 29-year-old native of Waterloo, Ont., is the CFL's leading kicker this season — his first in Hamilton following six years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Congi has hit 27-of-29 field goals with the Ticats for a league-best 93.1 per cent success ratio.

The five-foot-10, 190-pound Congi is also the CFL's second-leading scorer with 116 points, just five behind B.C.'s Paul McCallum. Congi is on pace to end the season with 174 points, which would beat his career-best of 166 recorded in 2008 with the Riders.

Heady stuff, considering Congi missed the entire 2011 campaign recovering from knee surgery while with Saskatchewan, which released Congi in the off-season.

"I never just wanted to come back, I wanted to come back better than ever," Congi said. "But sometimes it's not about whether you come back healthy sometimes it's about whether there's an opportunity there when you do come back.

"When you get hurt it opens up an opportunity for someone else to step in. But this (going to Hamilton) has been a blessing in disguise because I'm playing for another great organization and on top of that I get to play closer to home so my family gets to come to all the games. Sometimes you don't know how things are going to play out but you keep the confidence and keep the faith it will work out and let things unfold and I couldn't have picked a better scenario.''

Congi was one of the few bright spots last week for Hamilton (4-8), making all four field goals he attempted in a 34-12 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-9). Congi and the Ticats return to Ivor Wynne Stadium on Friday, hosting the East Division-leading Montreal Alouettes (8-4).

Congi credits Paul Osbaldiston, the Ticats' former punter/kicker and the club's assistant special-teams coach, with helping him tweak his game.

"Paul is a legend, a great kicker who had a great career," Congi said. "I love going to work with him because he makes everything fun yet he helps you.''

Osbaldiston took a hands-off approach to Congi during training camp, saying he first had to watch the veteran kicker in action before deciding what needed fixing and what was the best approach to achieving that.

"One of the first things he told me was, 'I want to see what you do because it's too early for me to make my analysis,''' Congi said. "That's a testament to his coaching ability because you just don't go in and make changes, you have to see what you're working with first and then kind of make your adjustments.

"I took every adjustment and everything he had to say to heart because I wanted to apply them directly. He has been a tremendous help and I can't say enough about his ability to coach.''

Montreal arrives in Hamilton having won six of its last seven games, including a 31-29 decision over the Ticats at Molson Stadium on Aug. 23. CFL passing leader Anthony Calvillo celebrated his 40th birthday by orchestrating a last-minute drive that allowed kicker Sean Whyte to boot a game-winning 37-yard field goal.

Calvillo finished the game 25-of-36 passing for 329 yards and a TD.

Calvillo, who has thrown for a league-high 3,711 yards, guided Montreal to a 31-10 home win over Toronto on Sunday, completing 15-of-29 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

But rookie Trent Guy provided the play of the game for Montreal, returning a missed field goal a club-record 129 yards for a touchdown. Guy also added nine-yard TD grab in the contest.

While Congi is well aware of what Guy did against Toronto, he said that threat won't impact his approach to kicking when he lines up a field goal against Montreal.

"There are too many things you need to focus on to do your job right that you can't afford to misallocate your energy to other focuses," Congi said. "You want 100 per cent of your focus to be on your task and what you're trying to do.

"If you're even one per cent focused on what happens if you miss or what if it's returned to the house, you're focusing on the wrong thing. I have all my focus on what I need to focus on and the result will be the result.''

But Guy's return was the first regular-season kick-return touchdown recorded by the Als since Tim Maypray ran one back against Toronto in August 2010.

Guy said special-team TDs not only provide a huge lift to the scoring team but also deflate the opposition.

"When you get those special-team returns they take the air out of the opponent," Guy said. "That's something we were missing all year.

"We put a big emphasis on it and worked hard on it and got a big return out of our special teams. In order to win big games you need to win all phases of football and I think we did that (against Toronto).''

And Guy is hoping his special-teams score is a sign of big things to come for the unit.

"Getting that special-teams touchdown was huge for us," he said. "Hopefully it just opens up the gates for more opportunities for us to get big plays like that on special teams.''

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