Sergio Castillo's late field goal lifts Tiger-Cats over Lions
Castillo hit his 3rd field goal of the night from 50 yards out with 10 seconds left in 24-23 win
After missing two early field goals Friday, Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker Sergio Castillo got a halftime phone call from his girlfriend.
Whatever she told him worked.
Castillo hit his third field goal of the night from 50 yards out with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the B.C. Lions 24-23.
"She's like, 'What's going on?' Gave me a little pep talk," said a smiling Castillo. "She's a soccer coach. The coach came out of her.
"I'm very blessed and fortunate to have her in my life."
Jeremiah Masoli finished 23-of-35 passing for 226 yards with touchdowns to Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker as Hamilton (3-9) moved out of the East Division basement and past the Montreal Alouettes, who play the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.
"That just shows the character of our team, who we are," said Masoli. "We're never going to stop fighting."
The Tiger-Cats are now 3-1 under new head coach June Jones, who replaced vice-president of football operations Kent Austin last month, and have life in the chase for a playoff spot.
"I can't put into words what he's done, the culture he's brought to our team," said Masoli.
Alex Green rushed 13 times for 140 yards in his CFL debut for the Tiger-Cats. The 29-year-old former NFLer was cut by Hamilton in training camp, but was signed last week.
"I didn't want to lose the faith, but I thought I was done," said Green. "I had football on my mind, but in the back of my mind."
"I felt like I owed it to the game to come back. It's calling me again. I put so much into it. I sacrificed so much."
Jonathon Jennings was 22-of-33 for 345 yards and ran in the only touchdown for B.C. (6-7), while Ty Long hit five field goals as B.C.'s post-season hopes took a major hit in the ultra-competitive West Division.
The Lions' red-zone offence faltered time and again Friday to send the stunned hosts into their bye week searching for answers.
"It sucks," said running back Jeremiah Johnson, who had 14 carries for 91 yards. "As a professional you're supposed to forget these, but this is one we know we needed."
After the Lions went ahead on Long's fifth field goal of the night, the Tiger-Cats got the ball back at their own 26 with 1:48 to play.
Masoli completed a pass to Tasker on third-and-six for 10 yards to B.C.'s 46 before Green picked up four more yards two plays later to set up Castillo's winning kick.
"Big win for this team," said Jones. "Any time you win on the road, you travel that far to come here, it's a big win."
The Tiger-Cats led 18-17 after three quarters, and went up by four when Castillo hit a 22-yard field goal to cap a 10-play drive that chewed up more than six minutes.
The Lions responded with a 45-yard Long field goal to make it 21-20 with under seven minutes to go, and their defence forced a two-and-out with a sack of Masoli on second down.
Jennings then found Bryan Burnham for a 24-yard completion before Johnson scampered for 19 more to Hamilton's 17, but the drive again stalled as Long gave his team a 23-21 lead with 1:57 left that wouldn't hold.
Tied 11-11 after at the half, Long put the Lions ahead just over five minutes into the third quarter when he hit on a field goal from 38 yards, but Masoli connected with Tasker on a 15-yard touchdown on Hamilton's next drive to make it 18-14.
The Lions drove the ball down to the Tiger-Cats' three thanks to a 48-yard completion from Jennings to Shaquille Johnson, but the next two passes fell incomplete as B.C. had to again settle for a short field goal.
Jennings hurt his throwing shoulder on B.C.'s first play from scrimmage in Hamilton back on July 15 — a game the Lions went onto win 41-26 with backup Travis Lulay at the helm.
Jennings wasn't the same player when returned to the lineup after a month out and was benched after 2 1/2 games in favour of Lulay. But the 25-year-old was back under centre two weeks ago after Lulay suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
Jennings led B.C. past Montreal that night, but the offence was completely out of sorts in last week's 27-13 road loss against the Calgary Stampeders as the Lions failed to score a touchdown.
The Tiger-Cats, meanwhile, were coming off a 27-19 home defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders following back-to-back wins — their first two victories of 2017 — under Jones, who has his players believing they can save their season.
"As soon as he enters the room you can feel his presence," said Castillo. "He brings that hope. At the end of the day that's all you can ask for."