SPORTS

Hamilton Tiger-Cats brimming with confidence after winning three straight games

10/03/2014 05:17 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
HAMILTON - The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are on a roll and that's breeding new confidence in a team that got off to a very slow start.

"I think our guys were always confident," Ticats head coach Kent Austin said Friday. "We are young, though. When you've got that level of youth, you need to win for the confidence to be more consistent and to be more authentic."

Hamilton (5-7) will take a three-game winning streak into Saturday's game against the visiting B.C. Lions. The Ticats have won four of five overall to move into a tie for first place in the weak CFL East Division.

The Ticats are also undefeated at Tim Hortons Field (3-0) since they started playing there on Labour Day. The return of starting quarterback Zach Collaros has also given the team a boost.

He missed five games earlier this season due to concussion-like symptoms and Hamilton started the season at 1-6. The Ticats also had to play their first three home games at McMaster University while waiting for their new stadium to open.

"Right now, in all honesty, this is the hottest team in the league," said B.C. head coach Mike Benevides. "You've got to play your best football and it's about every single person playing to the best of their ability because they're tough to deal with."

B.C. (7-6) has lost two straight and sits fourth in the CFL West, but the Lions currently hold a crossover playoff spot since they have a better record than the third-place Toronto Argonauts in the East.

On the ground, the Lions will be without Andrew Harris who has a dislocated ankle. Lewis led the league coming into this week with 1,181 yards from scrimmage.

They are also without starting quarterback Travis Lulay, who injured his right throwing shoulder on Sept. 5 against Ottawa in his first game back this season after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.

However, the Lions can turn to veteran pivot Kevin Glenn, a former Hamilton starter who has completed 216 of 343 pass attempts for 2,830 yards, 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. He will have Emmanuel Arceneaux as a target, the league's second-leading receiver with seven touchdowns and 773 yards on 47 receptions.

"I'm on a very good team," said Glenn. "Yes we've struggled a little bit lately, but we're still in the thick of things. We still have plenty enough football left to get to where we want to be ... this is about us as players putting our foot down and going out and doing what we need to do."

B.C. won its first meeting with Hamilton back in August with a 36-29 victory in Vancouver. Glenn was at the helm for the Lions and backup pivot Dan LeFevour was under centre for Hamilton.

"He played a great game, we're very aware of that," Austin said of Glenn. "He made plays and found some open receivers. Especially, a couple times we dropped receivers, and he scrambled around and found them and it turned into big plays. So we just have to be more disciplined defensively and make sure we don't drop receivers when they throw the football."

Benevides said the Lions are aware that the Tiger-Cats are a very different team than when they last met now that Collaros is back starting at quarterback.

But this week's matchup may very well end up to be a defensive battle.

Hamilton currently sports the league's best run defence while B.C. owns the best pass defence. B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian leads the CFL with 108 defensive tackles.

Former CFL all-star defensive end Justin Hickman will play in his second game with the Ticats after returning from a stint in the NFL. He had one sack and two tackles last week against Winnipeg.

Hickman and Glenn are friends from their days in Steeltown. Hickman has said he chose the No. 5 for his jersey as a tribute to Glenn, who wore that number in Hamilton.

Hickman said the one thing he admires most about Glenn is the quarterback's mental toughness, but come game time the defensive end that once led the league in quarterback sacks will have something else on his mind.

"For three years, I couldn't touch him in practice," Hickman said. "Now, I've got a chance to go get him."

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