TORONTO — With the 2011 playoffs an impossibility, Argonauts head coach Jim Barker is using Toronto’s remaining games to prepare for what he calls the most important season in club history.
Toronto will host the centennial edition Grey Cup next year and Barker likes where his team is headed after pulling out a 31-29 win over the Calgary Stampeders on a last second Noel Prefontaine field goal.
“In my mind, us being competitive and being in that (2012 Grey Cup) is everything,” said Barker. “Now we have all those pieces in place and we have to use these games so we know right where we are when we come in next year.”
Toronto led for virtually most of the game but after Calgary had taken a 29-28 lead on a 24-yard Rene Paredes field goal, Argos quarterback Steven Jyles guided the team on an 11-play, 75-yard drive in just one minute 26 seconds that Prefontaine capped with the final kick of the game.
“It was an opportunity for Jyles. I talked to him right before he went in on the 29 yard line,” said Barker. “It’s his chance to take this football team down the field and win a football game and that’s the one thing he has to do.”
Toronto was helped in that final drive with 45 yards worth of penalties committed by the Stampeders, something that didn’t sit well with their head coach as they battle for top spot in the CFL West Division.
“We had the opportunity to win but the penalties prevented us from doing it,” said Stamps coach John Hufnagel.
Toronto (4-11) looked to be comfortably in front with a 28-9 lead at the half, but went scoreless in the second half until the final play of the game.
Stamps backup quarterback Drew Tate came in for Henry Burris in the second quarter and helped guide Calgary (8-7) back into the game and even had his team in position to pick up the win.
“It felt good that we moved the ball,” said Tate. “We haven’t made those plays the last three weeks, but it’s coming around.
“The only satisfying thing about tonight is that we didn’t quit.”
Tate went 19-for-28 with 263 passing yards and two touchdowns. Burris had only thrown six completions for 64 yards and was pulled after his second interception of the night that Byron Parker returned for a touchdown.
After a Rene Paredes field goal for Calgary, Toronto recovered a LaMarcus Coker fumble to get great field position midway through the first quarter.
Two plays later, quarterback Steven Jyles handed the ball to Cory Boyd who found a hole on the right side from 13 yards out and got his fifth rushing touchdown of the season.
“We had high expectations for ourselves as a team coming in this season,” said Boyd. “Things didn’t go the way we wanted to but we’re getting back to our basics.”
Toronto’s 21-point outburst in the second quarter started with backup quarterback B.J. Hall coming in for a three-yard TD run.
After Calgary’s third field goal of the half, Toronto marched right back down the field on a drive that was completed on a 15-yard TD pass by Jyles to Brandon Rideau with seconds remaining in the half.
“It’s still our season,” said Jyles, who compared Toronto’s remaining games to an extended training camp. “We want to win more games but this is for us to see what we can do and build going into the off-season.”
Tate got his team off to a quick start to the second half. Calgary scored its first touchdown on six plays and 76 yards that was completed when Tate passed to Nik Lewis from 11 yards out.
Calgary got to within two on a drive it started at the end of the third quarter. Tate guided his team 90 yards on nine plays and capped it with a high 22-yard pass to Johnny Forzani.
The game was marred by an ugly incident in the third quarter when rookie offensive lineman J’Michael Deane was carted off the field with a broken leg. Deane was taken to hospital, but Calgary didn’t release any information about his status.
Notes: Halftime featured the annual Wendy’s Kick for a Million competition. Calgary’s Greg Wilson missed kicks from the 20, 30, 40 and 50-yard lines but was still awarded $31,000 for having his kick from the 50-yard line go for 31 yards.