Down to the wire: Argos squeak out exciting win

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG — Chad Kackert made an impression with the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night.

The rookie running back galloped 73 yards for a touchdown with 33 seconds left to give the Argos a 30-23 CFL pre-season win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

He finished with five carries for 109 yards.

So does he think the performance helped him grab a spot on Toronto’s roster?

“It won’t hurt,” Kackert said with a laugh.

A free-agent Argo signing, Kackert attended the University of New Hampshire and was a final cut at the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2010 training camp. He signed that fall with the Calgary Stampeders and was on their practice roster.

Kackert’s touchdown came after the Bombers had started a rally before a crowd of 29,117 at Canad Inns Stadium.

The Argos were ahead 23-9 after three quarters when Josh Bishop caught a pass from Bomber quarterback Joey Elliott and took it 44 yards. That set up a 14-yard TD reception by rookie receiver Clarence Denmark at 2:53 of the fourth that made it 23-16.

The Argos then turned the ball over on downs and Winnipeg capitalized in a lucky way.

Bomber placekicker Justin Palardy attempted a 48-yard field goal that went wide left and the ball was taken out of the end zone by rookie Jerome Hewitt, who fumbled after scoring on a 59-yard punt return earlier in the third quarter.

Rookie Bomber defensive tackle Moton Hopkins recovered Hewitt’s fumble and got to Toronto’s four-yard line. Running back Alex Henderson, also a rookie, then ran it in for the tying touchdown at 7:09.

With quarterback B.J. Hall at the helm, the Argos refused to break and Kackert sealed the team’s victory.

“It was an exciting pre-season game,” said Toronto head coach Jim Barker, whose club won its two exhibition games.

“Both sides had guys battling to make the team, battling to play in the CFL. There was a lot of heart on both sides.”

Winnipeg had two pre-season losses.

Barker was happy with the play of starting quarterback Cleo Lemon, who tossed a 47-yard TD strike to slotback Brandon Rideau on the game’s first possession.

Lemon was replaced by Hall midway through the third quarter.

Lemon finished 14-of-21 for 189 yards while Hall completed 3-of-7 for 81 yards.

Toronto kicker Noel Prefontaine connected on field goals from 40 and 24 yards, while rookie Grant Shaw made one from 27 yards out.

Palardy was good on three-of-five field goals after one was also blocked.

Buck Pierce started for the Bombers and was replaced by Elliott with five minutes left in the second quarter.

Pierce completed 10-of-14 pass attempts for 71 yards. Elliott was 16-of-23 for 181 yards.

“I felt good,” said Pierce, who’s coming back from a dislocated elbow he suffered last September.

“I thought we adjusted well to what they were doing defensively.  They gave us a lot of tough looks.”

The Bombers came away with nothing on their first possession, but then Argo running back Cory Boyd was hit and fumbled the ball.

Winnipeg linebacker Joe Lobendahn recovered it at Toronto’s 17-yard line, setting up Palardy’s 21-yard field goal at 4:32.

After Bomber cornerback Jovon Johnson gave his team good field position with a 50-yard punt return, Palardy’s 34-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by linebacker Jordan Younger and recovered by the Bombers. Winnipeg came away with nothing.

Palardy hit a 25 yarder at 3:45 of the second and a 21 yarder with 1:20 left to cut Toronto’s lead to 10-9.

Shaw notched his field goal as time expired on the first half for a 13-9 lead.

Hewitt opened the second-half scoring with his punt-return score at 3:41 that made it 20-9 and Prefontaine added his 24 yarder before the Bombers attempted a comeback.

Winnipeg and Toronto play each other twice in the first four games of the regular season.

Notes – Former Bomber quarterback Ken Ploen was honoured at halftime with the announcement that a street would be named Ken Ploen Way beside the team’s new stadium when it opens next year … The Bombers closed off season-ticket sales Thursday afternoon with a club-record 21,155.