HAMILTON, Ontario -- The Baltimore Stallions, behind running back Mike Pringle's first 200-yard rushing effort of the season, won their third straight game and put a decisive end to Hamilton's four-game winning streak with a 41-14 victory before a season-high 23,120 at Ivor Wynne Stadium last night.
Baltimore's dominant defense helped set the tone once again. The Stallions only allowed Hamilton to cross midfield once in the first half, while permitting the Tiger-Cats only 10 rushing yards and six first downs, as Baltimore opened up a 31-7 halftime lead.
Pringle did most of the rest, on a night when quarterback Tracy Ham threw two interceptions and missed the second half with a pulled quadriceps muscle.
Pringle rushed 31 times for 200 yards, scored four touchdowns, and increased his Canadian Football League rushing lead to 1,231 yards.
"We went out with a purpose tonight. We wanted a little extra to show that our running game is for real no matter who lines up against us," Pringle said. "The offensive line is not a glory position but every one of my yards is my offensive line's yards."
The Stallions (8-3) maintained their first-place lead in the Southern Division, while keeping Hamilton (6-4) in fourth place in the Northern Division.
Only two first-quarter interceptions thrown by Ham kept the Stallions from putting Hamilton in a huge, early hole, although Pringle eased Baltimore's anxiety with a terrific first-half performance.
Before last night, no Baltimore running back had ever rushed for four touchdowns in a game. Pringle scored three in the first half, when he needed only about 20 minutes to crack the 100-yard mark. He finished the half with 148 yards.
Baltimore's first possession ended when Ham's pass to a leaping Reggie Perry caromed off Perry's hands to the Tiger-Cats' Brian McCurdy. The Stallions quickly got the ball back and drove 62 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Ham highlighted the drive with a 14-yard completion to Chris Armstrong and a 13-yard strike to Robert Clark, along with an eight-yard gain on a quarterback draw play that moved the Stallions to the Hamilton 10. Two plays later, Pringle scored from the three with 4:50 to go in the first quarter.
A second-down sack by O.J. Brigance dropped quarterback Anthony Calvillo for an 11-yard loss and forced another Tiger-Cats' punt.
Pringle promptly ripped through Hamilton's defense for 34 yards on three runs, moving Baltimore to the Hamilton 18. On the next play, though, Ham dropped back, missed a wide-open Peter Tuipulotu, scrambled right, then threw a pass that Eric Carter picked off near the goal line.
Hamilton then moved the ball for the first time. But after gaining their first two, first downs, the Tiger-Cats had to punt again, and Baltimore's Chris Wright gave the Stallions excellent field position once again with a 34-yard return.
Pringle then accounted for 42 yards on the Stallions' 45-yard march. On his last carry of the drive, Pringle went over 100 yards with a 24-yard run up the middle, in which he hurdled one tackler and pulled another into the end zone, giving Baltimore a 14-0 lead with 10:33 left in the half.
The Stallions then turned up the heat more on special teams. Alvin Walton, while fighting a block by fullback Lee Knight, reached over Knight to block the punt by Paul Osbaldiston.
Baltimore took over at its own 54, then took control of the game with a smooth, six-play drive.
Ham began by tossing a swing pass to Robert Drummond, who gained 15 yards. After a 13-yard run by Pringle and a short gain by Ham, Drummond and Ham teamed up for an 11-yard gain on a pick pass play.
jTC Pringle then powered up the middle for 12 yards, then finished the drive on the next play with a two-yard plunge. Carlos Huerta kicked his third conversion, and the Stallions led, 21-0 with 5:56 left in the half.
"That's the unselfish part about Tracy. He doesn't care how we win the game," said coach Don Matthews. "If he has to hand off to Pringle all the time he's happy to do it. So when Tracy went lame a little bit and couldn't go to the things he normally does we just went more to the run."
Huerta increased the lead to 24-0 with 2:35 left, a score that was set up when linebacker Tracy Gravely intercepted Calvillo.
Baltimore then made it 31-0 on an unusual special teams play.
The Tiger-Cats, forced to punt from deep in their own territory, never got started. The snap went over Osbaldiston, who chased the ball into the end zone, where he tried to push it out of bounds. But, just as the ball bounced across the end line, Baltimore's Matt Goodwin batted it to Ken Watson, who caught the deflection for a touchdown.
Hamilton finally gave its quiet fans something to cheer about with 1:43 left in the half.
Calvillo's pump fake froze Baltimore cornerback Irv Smith, and Calvillo hit wide receiver Larry Thompson in stride down the left sideline. After making safety Brian White miss with an inside move, Thompson completed a 60-yard touchdown to pull the Tiger-Cats to within 31-7 at the half.
STALLIONS NEXT GAME
Opponent: Birmingham (6-4)
Where: Memorial Stadium
6* Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WGRX (100.7 FM)