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Crum leads Redblacks past Tiger-Cats in pre-season

Ottawa Redblacks Hamilton Tiger-Cats Dustin Crum, Robert Panabaker - The Canadian Press

HAMILTON — In a game that featured two key returning players, it was an incumbent who may have left the biggest impression.

Dustin Crum made his case to remain the Redblacks’ starting quarterback on Saturday, leading Ottawa to a 31-22 pre-season win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Crum took over for starter Dru Brown late in the first quarter and completed 10-of-16 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 33 yards and a score.

The American was Ottawa’s fourth stringer at this time last year, but he wound up starting by the end of the season as the quarterbacks in front of him faltered due to injury and poor play.

However, Ottawa traded for Brown in the off-season and immediately signed the former Blue Bombers backup QB to a two-year contract, signalling the Redblacks' intent to insert him as the starter.

Crum said he’s trying to remain focused on his own play ahead of the team’s regular-season opener on June 13 in Winnipeg.

“You can’t really let it affect you," he said. "Everyone knows I came in last year as the fourth string and at the end of the day, as a professional athlete, especially as a quarterback, you have to handle your business the same no matter what your role on the team is, where you’re at on the depth chart."

Tiger-Cats QB Bo Levi Mitchell played most of Saturday's first half after appearing in just six games last season because of various injuries.

He completed 10-of-16 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown to receiver Shemar Bridges on his final drive in the second quarter.

"It felt amazing," said Mitchell. "It felt good to be back out there. Obviously we’d like a different result but it was just nice to get out there, get the feet wet."

Mitchell, who entered training camp in a walking boot, said he’s feeling healthy.

“I feel awesome. Ready to go,” he said.

Tiger-Cats head coach Scott Milanovich evaluated Mitchell’s performance as “reasonably good,” but was disappointment in his special-teams units.

"It felt fun, right up until we took about five special-teams penalties in the first quarter," Milanovich said. "I told the players (and) the coaches in there, you’re either coaching or allowing it to happen — and it’s not gonna be allowed to happen."

One of those special-teams breakdowns came in the second quarter when Redblacks punt returner DeVonte Dedmon took a kick back 91 yards to the house, giving Ottawa a 14-3 lead.

Dedmon was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in 2021, but he appeared in just two games last season due to a shoulder injury and six the year prior as he attempted to catch on in the NFL.

Redblacks head coach Bob Dyce said he wasn’t shocked by Dedmon’s big play.

"He’s had a couple injuries but that doesn’t surprise me at all and he’s been a dynamic player since he came up here in 2019. So no surprises on that, but I was very happy for him,” Dyce said.

Ottawa seized control in the third quarter after defensive tackle Jamare Taylor forced the game’s first turnover, a sack-fumble against Hamilton QB Taylor Powell.

The change of possession gave the Redblacks the ball on Hamilton’s 20-yard line, and Ottawa converted three plays later when Crum scored on an 11-yard rush to put his team up 28-16, backing up his touchdown pass to Jon’Vea Johnson one drive prior.

Redblacks running back Ryquell Armstead, who spent two seasons with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, rushed for the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter, and Dedmon scored not long after.

Hamilton kicker Marc Liegghio converted all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 31-yarder for the first points of the game, and made his lone convert.

Ottawa added a single early in the second quarter as Hamilton returner Kaylon Geiger Sr., conceded a punt return in the end zone. Redblacks kicker/punter Michael Domagala was also perfect on three converts and made a 27-yard field goal to ice Ottawa’s win with 69 seconds left in the game.

The Tiger-Cats cut the deficit to six points when third-string QB Kevin Thomson tossed a 22-yard touchdown to Dev Holmes with just under five minutes remaining in the game. But that was the closest the home side would get.

Hamilton defensive lineman Curtis Woodmansey, the brother of Ticats offensive lineman Coulter Woodmansey, was carted off the field following an apparent late fourth-quarter leg injury. Nearly the entire Tiger-Cats’ sideline greeted him on his way out. There was no official update after the game.

Hamilton is coming off an 8-10 2023 campaign that ended with a 27-12 loss in the Eastern semifinal against the eventual Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, while Ottawa missed the playoffs at 4-14.

UP NEXT — The Ticats conclude their pre-season slate on Friday in Toronto before heading on the road for a Week 1 showdown against Calgary on June 7.

Milanovich said he hopes his team can clean up some of its details before then.

“I know that’s gonna be a big emphasis tomorrow and throughout the rest of training camp.”

The Redblacks host Montreal on Friday before a Week 1 bye ahead of their opener against Winnipeg.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2024.