HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place in Hamilton on Friday.
The Edmonton Elks quarterback won his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.
The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 for 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.
“To come back to Hamilton and see my whole family watch me get that first start and that first win was fantastic,” said Ford.
Ford’s supporters included his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his AN Myer Secondary high school football coach, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former college teammates and more friends.
Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed 13 points early in the second half.
But the 2021 Hec Crighton Trophy winner going to the most outstanding Canadian college soccer player threw a match-binding touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.
The winning game for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 left when defending defenseman Scott Hutter Hamilton tackled quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.
Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.
“I saw him tackle him and thought, please knock the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was a chance to close the game. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”
The scoreless Tiger-Cats started a season with four consecutive defeats for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.
“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”
Evans went 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.
Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, though he ran 60 feet on six carriers. The 24-year-old battled 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.
Edmonton’s defense helped with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as Collins’ crucial late-game recovered fumble.
“A big kudos to the defense,” said Ford. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did very well.
“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we won. But I’m going to the cinema to see what I can criticize and where I can improve.”
Hamilton went after the rookie in the first half with several blitzes. “My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.
Ford praised teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started this season in Edmonton’s three defeats, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.
“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” said Ford.
He gave in to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.
“I always get nervous before the first game of every game,” said Ford. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care about him and I want to win.”
Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a 72-yard kick-off for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.
Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a three-foot dive.
Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field goals, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala spiked his three and gave the Ticats the lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game
“We are not good enough at the moment,” said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “We are not performing at the level that should be done. We just don’t make the plays we need to make.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 1, 2022.