HAMILTON — Jeff Reinebold, the Tiger-Cats’ special teams co-ordinator, looked at Montreal’s Dominique Ellis on the sidelines, held his hands out to his sides and shrugged apologetically.
Hamilton kick returner Brandon Banks, who could dodge snowflakes during a blizzard, had just raced down the sideline 88 yards for a touchdown, his second lengthy punt-return score of the day. Third, if you count the one called back by a penalty.
Poor Ellis had been among those left flailing on both of the scores. Thus the sympathy shrug from the opposing coach.
Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins said he still wasn’t sure what had happened as his players tried to tackle vapour.
“There’s no way he should have been able to return that (second one) for a touchdown,” said Higgins of Banks, who officially weighs 153 pounds but looks as though he would only reach that number with a couple of bricks tucked into his shorts.
“We had guys standing there,” Higgins said of his would-be tacklers. “It’s almost like he turned into Casper the Ghost” — old cartoon reference there, kids — “because we were grasping at air.”
Banks finished with 226 punt-return yards and the two back-breaking touchdowns in Hamilton’s 40-24 win in the CFL East final at Tim Hortons Field, booking the Tiger-Cats a trip to the Grey Cup in Vancouver next week.
Appropriately nicknamed “Speedy,” although Slippery would be just as accurate, Banks said his electric returns were just a matter of help from his teammates.
“They’re just blocking and I’m just running,” said Banks, who played sparingly for the NFL’s Washington Redskins for three seasons beginning in 2010. “These 11 guys get me to the second level, then I take it to the house.”
When he accepted a scholarship to Kansas State in 2008, Banks said he was 147 pounds, the first football player ever to get a scholarship at less than 150 pounds. “But I’m probably 153 or 154 now,” he said.
Banks shrugged off the considerable degree of trash-talking that had emanated from Montreal in the week preceding the game: “Words don’t mean nothing,” he said. “You see what the scoreboard is.”
The Als’ chief braggart, receiver S.J. Green, at least backed it up. He had said that Hamilton defensive back Brandon Stewart had “no chance” to cover him, instructing reporters to “put that in the paper. He knows it.” This was excellent foreshadowing, as Green totalled 126 yards on six catches, including three touchdowns.
Stewart, who was beaten on two of those touchdowns, said afterward that Green was a great receiver. “But we’re playing next week and they’re not.”