HAMILTON – Chris Williams and Andy Fantuz combined for four touchdowns as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats took the first round of the 2012 Battle of Ontario with a 36-27 win over the Argonauts.
It was a classic battle in more ways than one. The Ticats-Argos rivalry is well documented but Saturday`s game also marked the first time that Henry Burris and Ricky Ray took their quarterback rivalry (previously with Calgary and Edmonton) East.
Defences started out flying with both teams getting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks but it was Burris and the Ticats that struck first when he found sophomore WR Chris Williams streaking down the sidelines for a 35-yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead.
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The Ticats would build on their lead shortly after when Burris found Andy Fantuz in the endzone for a 24-yard major. It was the former Saskatchewan Roughrider’s first touchdown as a Tiger-Cat. The score was set up a few plays earlier when Hamilton LB Nathan Kanya pounced on a Chad Owens fumble when the elusive Argos returner had the ball stripped while fielding a punt.
The Ticats’ special teams unit would come up big again at the beginning of the second quarter when Williams would record his second touchdown of the game, taking back a Noel Prefontaine punt 87 yards to put the ‘Cats up 21-0.
Ray and the Argos’ offence would start to find a bit of rhythm on the next drive as they worked their way down the field and a 39-yard Dontrelle Inman catch put them within scoring range but they had to kick a 14-yard Prefontaine field goal.
The Argos would add another field goal on their next drive to cut the Hamilton lead to 22-6 and then record their first major of the game when Ricky Ray led the Toronto offence down the field and helped set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by backup QB Jarious Jackson.
On the ensuing Ticats possession, Burris found receiver Bakari Grant over the middle but the Argos’ Pat Watkins forced a fumble and Toronto took over with 53 seconds remaining in the half.
The Argos were poised to inch closer on the final play of the half but a missed Prefontaine field goal was fielded by Williams and returned it 119 yards for his third touchdown of the game and a 29-13 lead at halftime.
Contrary to the score, Toronto was ahead of Hamilton in both first downs and total offence after two quarters.
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Despite the loss, Cory Boyd still racked up huge numbers, carrying the ball 19 times for 168 yards and a touchdown. Saturday’s performance set a new career high for the third-year tailback.
The Argonauts opened the second half with a successful drive that was stopped by the Ticats ‘D’ inside the 10 yard line. It wasn’t Prefontaine, however, that came out to attempt the chip shot field goal. Undrafted rookie Anthony Alix hit his first career CFL three-pointer to pull the Argos to within 13.
Ray started getting into a groove but the Argos’ pivot couldn’t seem to find the endzone. Alix missed a 24-yard field goal and Toronto had to settle for a single point.
Toronto refused to give up however, as they road their running back Cory Boyd down the field as the fourth quarter began. Boyd had two big gains, leading the Argos inside the five yard line and eventually punching in the major from the three to cut the Hamilton lead to 29-24.
That would swing momentum in Toronto’s favour as DB Evan McCollough intercepted a Burris pass to set the Double Blue up on Hamilton’s side of centre. It would lead to an 18-yard Alix field goal and the Argos pulled within two.
Burris and the ‘Cats would answer though, when the veteran QB orchestrated an impressive drive, capped off by a touchdown pass to Bakari Grant to extend the Hamilton lead to 36-27.
The Argonauts would have one last chance to get within striking distance but Hamilton DB Carlos Thomas made a play on the ball and intercepted Ray’s toss with 1:51 remaining in the game.