July 14th, 2024

Veteran kicker Liegghio been bright spot on Hamilton’s special teams this season

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on July 5, 2024.

Special teams have been a concern early this season for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but kicker Marc Liegghio hasn't been among them. Rain water explodes from the net as Liegghio (33) warms up following a lengthy weather delay during CFL football game action against the Edmonton Elks in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

HAMILTON – Special teams have been a concern early this season for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but kicker Marc Liegghio hasn’t been one.

On Wednesday, Hamilton (0-4) hired Dennis McKnight as its new special-teams coach. The move came after the club and former co-ordinator Paul Boudreau parted ways shortly after its 24-22 road loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on Sunday.

Liegghio, 27, of Woodbridge, Ont., has been a consistent performer this season, having made 9-of-10 field goals and all eight converts he’s attempted.

“I’m pretty confident with how I’m doing so far this season,” Liegghio said. “The kicks have been looking good.

“The way I grade my kicks is a little different than how they look on television. There’s always room for improvement but on field goals and punting we’re both doing a pretty good job and our unit is looking pretty strong right now.”

Rookie Nik Constantinou leads the CFL in punts (48). He’s third in average (49.7 yards) and is tied with Montreal’s Joseph Zema for third in net (37.6 yards).

Liegghio is also handling kickoff duties for Hamilton.

Liegghio is in his second season with the Ticats. In 2023, he made 41-of-47 field goals (87.2 per cent) and 27-of-32 converts. All were career highs for Liegghio, who helped the Western Mustangs win the ’17 Vanier Cup.

Liegghio spent his first two CFL seasons with Winnipeg, making 37-of-47 field goals (78.7 per cent) and posting a 45.3-yard average on 183 punts. But Liegghio missed a convert in the ’22 Grey Cup game, his 47-yard field goal attempt with 54 seconds remaining was blocked, allowing the Toronto Argonauts to run out the clock on a 24-23 victory.

The Bombers released Liegghio on June 3, 2023. Two weeks later, the five-foot-eight, 195-pound kicker signed with Hamilton, which placed incumbent Seth Small on the suspended list.

“When Hamilton brought me in, it was the comfort level I felt as soon as I got here,” Liegghio said. “Everyone was very friendly, we’re brothers in the change room, the coach’s office, upper management.

“I just thought the transition was very easy. Especially on game day, the fans are so good. The past two years now, being more a part of the community events, it’s just an amazing feeling being a Tiger-Cat.”

Despite Liegghio’s play, it’s been a tough start to the season for Hamilton The Ticats held late leads at home to Saskatchewan (June 16) and last week in Ottawa, only to watch their opponents kick late field goals for 33-30 and 24-22 wins, respectively.

“Leggs has been good,” said Hamilton head coach Scott Milanovich. “I trust him.

“I don’t want to say too many good things and put a jinx on him but he’s doing a good job and he has been since I got here, even last year. Consistently good in practice, puts his kickoff where he needs to. I’m pleased with where he’s at.”

On Sunday night, Hamilton hosts the B.C. Lions (3-1), who are riding a three-game win streak and boast the CFL’s top passer in quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (1,369 yards with seven TDs and just one interception).

And veteran Lions kicker Sean Whyte is on a very nice roll, having made all 11 field goals he’s attempted this season and his last 28 overall. The 38-year-old Canadian’s 42-yard boot late in the game helped rally the Lions to a 24-21 home win over Edmonton on June 27.

“He looks so smooth,” Liegghio said of Whyte. “It’s just awesome watching him and the way he hits the ball, he looks so calm and relaxed out there like it’s nothing new for him.

“It’s awesome the streak he’s on. Obviously we’re playing him but I always wish kickers to do their best and make their kicks.”

Whyte is in his 15th CFL season and has definitely made his fair share. The native of White Rock, B.C., has connected on 479-of-544 attempts (88.1 per cent) and is living proof kickers can enjoy long, productive pro tenures.

And it’s a career path Liegghio would like to follow.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “As long as the body treats you well you have to keep playing as long as you can.

“It’s awesome being around the guys and it’s a blessing to be playing football as a job and I’m very happy being a part of Hamilton.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2024.

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