CFL·Preview

RedBlacks ready for crucial home date against Ticats Saturday

The Ottawa RedBlacks are calling it the biggest game in franchise history. With a win Saturday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-7), the RedBlacks (11-6) can punch their ticket to the East Division final on Nov. 22 in Ottawa.

Can clinch East Division final berth on home field for Nov. 22

Ottawa's Henry Burris was tackled by Hamilton's Craig Butler on Sunday in Hamilton but it was a questionable hit by Simoni Lawrence that drew the ire of Burris and the RedBlacks. The teams meet in a rematch Saturday in Ottawa. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

The Ottawa RedBlacks are calling it the biggest game in franchise history.

With a win Saturday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-7), the RedBlacks (11-6) can punch their ticket to the East Division final on Nov. 22 in Ottawa.

Not bad for a team that just one year ago won only two games and finished dead last in the league.

While improvement was expected from the RedBlacks this season, due to some key off-season acquisitions, not many could have predicted this kind of turnaround.

RedBlacks head coach Rick Campbell says the players deserve full credit for the success, but says now is not the time to get caught up in the emotional side of the game.

"It's a big game and we have total focus on 4 o'clock Saturday," said RedBlacks head coach Rick Campbell. "The game can't come fast enough for the guys because you get excited to play these types of games. We're looking forward to (Saturday).

"Our goal was to find a way to get into the playoffs and we've been able to do that and we're just going to take this thing as far as we can from here and go from there."

The two teams met last week where Ottawa was able to grind out a 12-6 win to put them in the enviable position of earning a first-round bye.

This is the second leg of a total-points showdown between the two teams to decide the Division winner. The Tiger-Cats will need to win by at least six or more in order to win the Division.

An Ottawa loss, by six or more, would mean the RedBlacks would face the Argonauts in a semi-final next weekend. Considering the RedBlacks were 0-3 against Toronto this season, they would probably prefer avoiding that scenario.

Focus is of the utmost importance for the RedBlacks who have been victim this season of allowing emotion get the best of them at times. Last week's game featured a questionable hit by Hamilton's Simoni Lawrence on Henry Burris that infuriated the RedBlacks. Much more was made of the hit due to post-game remarks by both players.

"This time of year it's a habit thing where you want to go into the playoffs not worrying about your emotions getting the best of you and taking stupid penalties or just things that are going to hurt the team," said Brad Sinopoli. "Obviously it's something we've got to keep in check, especially with this game and how emotional it was last game."

RedBlacks chasing milestones

A couple milestones are within reach for the RedBlacks as Burris is just 33 yards shy of setting a new career high in passing yards, and Greg Ellingson needs just 81 yards to become Ottawa's fourth 1,000-yard receiver this season.

Burris was questionable to start last week due to a knee injury, but in the end he played the game. The 40-year-old says he's put last week's theatrics with Lawrence aside and believes the best response would be to let his game do the talking.

"When we get on the field, that's all the statements that you can make is how you play the game. That's what our focus is on right now," Burris said. "Both teams know that the best way to truly get back at somebody is to get a victory because that's the last statement that will be heard and that's a statement that will always be felt for the remaining week afterwards."

The RedBlacks realize a win Saturday would make for a great story considering last season the team posted just two wins and finished dead last.

"I thought we were going to be a lot more competitive this year considering how hard we played last year and the big acquisitions they brought in and the studs they brought in on offence," Shologan said. "But I never imagined to be in the running to be the top team in the East, but that just shows how hard the guys and the coaches and the management have done to put together something that's pretty good."

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