Dane Evans hit Brandon Banks on a 23-yard scoring strike with 1:02 remaining to rally the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a thrilling 35-34 home win over the B.C. Lions on Saturday night.
B.C. got the ball at its 22-yard line on the ensuing kickoff but Richard Leonard picked off Mike Reilly with 32 seconds remaining. The Lions got the ball to their own 53-yard line on the previous play.
East-leading Hamilton (6-2) earned its fifth straight home victory while the Lions (1-7), who are last in the West, suffered a fourth straight loss.
The Lions seemed to take control in the second half. Reilly’s one-yard TD run at 6:23 of the third quarter culminated a 12-play, 80-yard march that featured six penalties — five against Hamilton.
Then Reilly found Bryan Burnham on a four-yard touchdown pass 14 seconds into the fourth to increase B.C.’s lead to 34-19. That capped an 80-yard, 11-play drive for the Lions, who held the ball for 12 minutes one second in the third.
But Hamilton started its fourth-quarter comeback with Lirim Hajrullahu’s 13-yard field goal at 5:04. David Watford’s one-yard TD run at 11:41 cut B.C.’s lead to 34-28.
Frankie Williams, whose 57-yard punt return set up Banks’ winning TD, delivered another huge play for Hamilton. He had a 108-yard kickoff return in the first half, boosting the CFL single-season record to nine.
It was the 18th return score this year, four short of the league mark set in 2004. Last year there were 15 return touchdowns.
Williams appeared to make it 19 when he took Bralon Addison’s lateral 81 yards for the TD on a punt return. But Hamilton’s Tyrice Beverette was flagged for an illegal block, disappointing the Tim Hortons Stadium sellout of 23,308 in the annual Hall of Fame game.
At halftime, this year’s inductees — former players Terry Greer, Ernie Pitts Jr. (posthumously), Jon Cornish, Mervyn Fernandez and David Williams along with builders Jim Hopson, and Frank Smith — were honoured.
Burnham and John White both had two TDs for B.C. Sergio Castillo added three converts and a single.
Banks finished with two TDs and a two-point convert for Hamilton. Hajrullahu booted two field goals and a convert while Luke Tasker had a two-point conversion.
White’s two-yard TD run at 13:24 of the second, and Castillo’s 61-yard single on the ensuing kickoff staked B.C. to a 21-19 halftime advantage. That came after Williams’s kickoff-return touchdown at 9:24. Evans found Tasker on the two-point convert for a 19-13 Hamilton lead.
White scampered 20 yards for his first TD at 8:50 to put B.C. ahead 13-11.
Hajrullahu’s 10-yard field goal at 4:53 of the second put Hamilton up 11-6. It was set up by Valentin Gnahoua’s recovery of Hajrullahu’s onside kick at the B.C. 30.
Reilly’s 47-yard TD strike to Burnham at 6:23 of the first cut Hamilton’s advantage to 8-6. The two-point convert was unsuccessful.
Hamilton opened the scoring with Evans’ 32-yard TD pass to Banks at 2:01. The two then combined on the two-point convert.