It was a triumphant return for Matt Shiltz.
The veteran quarterback came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats cemented a CFL playoff berth with a 22-15 home win over the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night.
Shiltz was making his first appearance since suffering a hip injury in Hamilton’s 37-29 win over Edmonton on July 13. The 30-year-old American showed a flair for the dramatic, connecting with Tim White on a 70-yard TD strike on his first pass attempt.
“It felt great to get back out there and just be a part of it and do whatever I could to help the team win,” Shiltz said. “I’ve been looking forward to doing that.
“We got the right look, we (Shiltz and White) both kind of saw the same thing on the play. Give the guy a chance and Tim’s going to come out (with the football) more often than not.”
Hamilton (7-8) punched its post-season ticket with the win and the Montreal Alouettes’ 32-17 road victory over the Ottawa Redblacks earlier Saturday. The Ticats have won four of their last six games and improved to 4-2 versus West Division competition.
Shiltz replaced starter Taylor Powell early in the second quarter after the rookie completed just two-of-six passes for 14 yards. Shiltz finished 11-of-19 passing for 225 yards with two TDs and an interception before a Tim Hortons Field gathering of 22,809.
“It’s nice to see Matt back in the saddle, just the journey he’s been on,” said Orlondo Steinauer, Hamilton’s head coach/president of football operations. “Shoot, his career looked like it could be in jeopardy, let alone the season.
“Just so happy for him and obviously happy for our football team.”
James Butler ran for 92 yards on 14 carries as Hamilton earned a second straight home victory to improve to 3-5 at Tim Hortons Field.
“We need to perform at home, it’s an advantage,” Steinauer said. “But to be honest we weren’t winning anywhere but it seems like each time our back has been against the wall we’ve found a way to claw and scratch.
“So here we are with a tremendous opportunity but we’re not going to rest on this. We’re going to use this as a platform, keep building on it.”
Marc Liegghio’s 31-yard field goal at 5:59 of the fourth put Hamilton ahead 19-9. Rene Paredes’ 44-yard kick at 9:11 made it a seven-point game before Liegghio’s 21-yard field goal at 13:41 restored the Ticats’ 10-point lead.
Paredes made a 44-yard field goal at 14:31 to pull Calgary to within 22-15. But Hamilton’s Kai Locksley recovered the Stampeders’ onside kick with 27 seconds remaining to cement the victory.
Montreal (8-7) stands second in the East Division, two points ahead of Hamilton. The two teams meet on the final week of the season but the Alouettes have already clinched the season series for the tiebreaker.
Calgary (4-11) suffered a third straight loss and remained tied for fourth in the West Division with the idle Edmonton Elks (4-11). The Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-9) are third in the West Division.
Calgary slipped to 2-6 away from McMahon Stadium and 2-5 versus the East Division. Quarterback Jake Maier completed 26-of-44 passes for 247 yards as the Stampeders had more first downs (21 to 14) and offensive plays (63 to 49) than Hamilton.
“It was a fight,” said Dave Dickenson, Calgary’s head coach/GM. “For us, again, it was not enough.
“We knew how important this game was. We pressed a little bit, just weren’t able to in my opinion to kind of get over the hump. Get the lead, feel confident about our game and it showed and we weren’t able to win.”
Saturday also marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and both teams wore orange jerseys during pre-game warm-ups. Calgary also had a special logo on its helmets for the contest.
Terry Godwin II had Hamilton’s other touchdown. Liegghio booted three field goals and a convert.
Paredes booted five field goals for Calgary.
Paredes had the lone points of the third quarter, his 47-yard field goal at 3:51 cutting Hamilton’s lead to 16-9.
Shiltz staked Hamilton to its 16-6 halftime advantage with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Godwin II at 13:57 of the second quarter. It capped a 69-yard, five-play drive.
Shiltz replaced Powell at 10:56 of the quarter and completed 6-of-10 passes for 195 yards, the two TDs and an interception.
Liegghio connected from 41 yards out at 12:18 to give Hamilton a 9-6 advantage.
Paredes’ 30-yard boot at 3:39 pushed Calgary’s lead to 6-0. But Shiltz’s 70-yard TD pass to White at 4:02 made it 6-6 as Liegghio missed the convert, his fifth this season.
Paredes’ 47-yard field goal at 8:16 of the first opened the scoring. It was set up by Ticat Felix Garand-Gauthier’s incompletion out of punt formation that gave Calgary possession at Hamilton’s 50-yard line.
Hamilton will visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders next Saturday while Calgary will have a bye week.