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Tiger-Cats turn trio of second-half interceptions into 29-23 win over Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Kenny Lawler (89) is tripped up by Hamilton Tiger Cats defensive back Kenneth George Jr. (3) during second half CFL football game action in Hamilton, Ont., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Kenny Lawler (89) is tripped up by Hamilton Tiger Cats defensive back Kenneth George Jr. (3) during second half CFL football game action in Hamilton, Ont., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
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HAMILTON -- The Hamilton Tiger-Cats received contributions from their offence, defence and special teams in their upset win against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Still, it was difficult not to notice defensive back Stavros Katsantonis buzzing around Tim Hortons Field on Saturday.

The former University of British Columbia standout made six tackles, including a critical sack and interception, to thwart two drives from the visitors in the 29-23 victory before 22,610.

The victory was the third in four games for the Ticats (6-7), but only the second win at home in 2023. The Blue Bombers (10-4) lost for the second time in three outings.

"He's a guy who's very instinctive," Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. "He studies. He loves the game. He's in the weight room at 6 a.m. all the time. He wouldn't want me to tell you that.

"But I'm painting a picture here that he cares. He loves football. He loves his teammates. He's willing to do whatever it takes. And when you see people like that get rewarded, it doesn't surprise you."

Katsantonis, Malik Carney and Kenneth George Jr. made second-half interceptions to interrupt drives from the West Division-leading Bombers.

The win pushed the Ticats into a second-place tie with the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division.

Katsantonis's significant sack late in the second quarter forced Winnipeg to settle for a field goal.

"A lot of people want to say we'd only beaten Ottawa three times and haven't beaten anyone significant other than B.C.," Katsantonis said. "But that's the statement we have made, and we're going to keep playing each week."

The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Katsantonis is an underdog story. He was born and raised in Bakersfield, Calif., and after his high school career, he did not receive a single scholarship offer from a U.S. Division 1A college.

His Edmonton-born father, Jim, suggested he give the Canadian university game a shot. Jim, also a defensive back whose football days were cut short by a back injury, won the 1988 Vanier Cup at the University of Calgary.

"If it weren't for him, I never would have come up to Canada," an emotional Katsantonis said. "He's always believed in me. I owe it all to my dad. I'm very thankful for him. And the work ethic he's instilled in me."

Those 6 a.m. workout room visits appear even earlier because that's about when Steinauer arrives for his work day.

"I want to play a long time in this league," the dual Canadian-U. S. citizen said. "I think the deposits made have been paying out, and nothing will change for me on this."

Katsantonis was coached in high school by Darren Carr, brother of NFL quarterback Derek Carr. One of his high school teammates was Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love.

At UBC, Katsantonis helped the school win the 2015 Vanier Cup, forcing a late-game fumble.

His early fourth-quarter interception preserved a 29-16 lead Hamilton had built.

Tiger-Cats quarterback Taylor Powell completed 20 of 26 pass attempts for 236 yards and one touchdown throw to Terry Godwin.James Butler and Kai Locksley scored rushing touchdowns for Hamilton. Butler finished with 82 rushing yards on 22 carries in the game.

Collaros was 21-for-35 in passing for 344 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.

Winnipeg kept the outcome in suspense with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Collaros with 3:31 remaining.

Hamilton led 22-16 at halftime and increased that lead to 29-16 on Locksley's one-yard plunge for the only score in the third quarter. Winnipeg kicker Sergio Castillo missed the convert wide right in the second quarter, allowing Hamilton's Tyreik McAllister to return the errant kick 126 yards for two points and a 12-6 advantage after the first quarter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2023.

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