Tiger-Cats keep playoff hopes alive with crucial win over Roughriders

Seth Small booted four field goals to lead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a crucial 18-14 home win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night at Tim Hortons Field.

Small’s 29-yard field goal at 12:43 of the fourth quarter staked Hamilton to its four-point lead. It capped a 71-yard, 14-play drive that took 7:38 off the clock.

Saskatchewan had the ball at its 42-yard line with 2:09 remaining and drove to the Hamilton 45 before Cody Fajardo’s third-down pass was incomplete with 1:21 remaining. The Riders got the ball back at their own 23-yard line with 23 seconds to play but Fajardo was intercepted at the Ticats’ 26-yard line by Ciante Evans.

Hamilton (5-10) remained third in the East Division but moved to within a victory of Saskatchewan (6-10), which is fourth in the West Division. If the Riders end the regular season with more wins than the Ticats, they’ll assume the third and final Eastern Conference playoff seed.

Hamilton will face the Calgary Stampeders next week before finishing its regular season with a home-and-home series with the Ottawa Redblacks. Saskatchewan, which has lost five straight games, heads into a bye week before ending its regular season facing the Stamps in a home-and-home.

Kian Schaffer-Baker and Justin McInnis had Saskatchewan’s touchdowns. Brett Lauther added the converts.

Dane Evans scored Hamilton’s touchdown.

Hamilton appeared to get a safety early in the fourth when Fajardo was called for intentional grounding while in the end zone. But he was ruled to have been just past the goal line but then Jovan Santos-Knox was called for objectionable conduct, giving the Riders a second-and-seven situation they converted.

Shortly afterwards, Hamilton’s Micah Johnson took an objectionable conduct penalty, giving Saskatchewan a first down at its 46-yard line.

Hamilton took the wind to start the second half and managed two Small field goals for a 15-14 lead heading into the fourth. Small hit from 30 yards out at 14:03 after connecting from 42 yards out at 4:33.

The Riders led 14-9 at halftime as the second quarter ended with a bizarre play.

After a three-yard boot, Saskatchewan punter Kaare Vedvik tried kicking the loose ball. He got just enough to bounce it off a Ticat before Riders linebacker Jordan Herdman-Reed recovered at the visitors’ 42-yard line at 14:59. Had Hamilton recovered, the Ticats could’ve attempted a late field goal.

Small’s 40-yard field goal at 10:17 cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 14-9 as the Riders rode a successful challenge and special-teams turnover to their advantage.

Fajardo put Saskatchewan ahead 14-6 with a nine-yard touchdown pass to McInnis at 5:10. It was set up by Blace Brown’s block of Michael Domagala’s punt that put the Riders at the Hamilton 13-yard line.

Evans’ one-yard TD run at 11:07 of the first against the wind pulled Hamilton to within 7-6 as Seth Small missed the convert. Evans capped a 56-yard, four-play drive in response to Saskatchewan’s scoring drive.

Fajardo’s 10-yard TD strike to Schaffer-Baker opened the scoring at 8:47. The most decisive point in the seven-play, 77-yard drive was Saskatchewan’s successful challenge when faced with punting, resulting in a face mask call against Hamilton’s Tunde Adeleke that allowed the Riders to keep the ball.

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