HAMILTON — Henry Burris hadn't started a game at quarterback since mid-August, but the only thing that seemed worse for wear was his voice.
The 41-year-old was hoarse talking to reporters after his Ottawa Redblacks hung on for the win to take first place in the CFL East with a 30-29 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night in front of 23,868 very loud fans at Tim Horton Field.
Burris completed 27-of-39 pass attempts for 393 yards, one touchdown and one fumble. He also rushed for a one-yard and a five-yard TD in the first half against his former team.
"It just felt good to get a big win, especially on the road and be back out there with the guys and having a chance to put something together," said Burris, who was making only his fifth start of the season after being injured (finger) and then losing his job to Trevor Harris. He hadn't started under centre since Week 9 in mid-August against Montreal.
"I mean, you gotta do your job and it's just good to be able to get things in synch, be able to see the field without (having been out there for so long) and being able to get back in the rhythm that I'm working so hard to get back into. But just making good decisions with the ball tonight, that was the most satisfying."
Ottawa stops a two-game skid and solidifies its spot atop the CFL East standings with a (7-7-1) record. Hamilton (6-9) loses its third in a row but remains in second.
Ernest Jackson also grabbed a 62-yard pass-and-run for Ottawa. All its touchdowns came in the first half.
Ottawa kicker Chris Milo hit all three field-goal attempts, from 31, 27, and 35 yards.
Terrence Toliver, John Chiles, CJ Gable, and Junior Collins scored TDs for Hamilton. Hamilton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, starting for Zach Collaros who is out with a concussion, completed 25 of 32 attempts for 278 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hamilton kicker Brett Maher missed his only attempt of the night, a 47-yarder wide right for a single that would have given the Ticats a lead in the final 2:23 but instead pulled them up just short to 30-29 and Ottawa was able to run out the clock.
Ottawa had a 20-7 lead heading into halftime, but Hamilton took brief leads of 21-20 and 28-27 as the game wore on.
"Football's a game of momentum swings," said Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell. "And we had a good demeanour about us tonight in that we were just working the game and getting ready for the next play and finding a way to make the plays in the fourth quarter to get it done. We were on a good emotional level tonight in that we weren't too high, we weren't too low, we were just focused on the task at hand."
The two teams meet again next week in Ottawa.
Hamilton head coach Kent Austin was particularly angry with a call with 6:57 left in the game when Ottawa receiver Greg Ellingson appeared to have fumbled the ball on the Hamilton 10. Austin challenged the call, and the eventual ruling called it an incomplete pass. Montreal kept the ball and kicked what would be the game-winning field goal.
"It was huge," he said, speaking carefully having just returned from being banished to the spotter's box for a game due to physical contact with a ref. "That won the game for them. I thought it was a fumble. I respect the job of the replay officials in Toronto."