Holding First: Als create distance atop East with win
TORONTO – Anthony Calvillo delivered a strike to Jamel Richardson in the third quarter and that, combined with a Shea Emry interception return touchdown, was enough for the Als in a 24-12 win over Toronto.
The pass broke open a game that was primarily a defensive battle until the two connected for the biggest play of the afternoon and took all the momentum away from Toronto who had just recovered a fumble and taken the lead on a field goal.
Calvillo finished with 255 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 16 of 31 passing.
Sunday’s contest was a battle for first place and although, it wasn’t the official deciding factor, the result would go a long way understanding who would host the East Final in November.
The Argos got on the board first after a Noel Prefontaine punt dribbled into the endzone for a single point. A significant moment for the 36-year-old kicker who was making his first appearance since having hip surgery which many thought would put an end to his career. Swayze Waters would continue to handle the field goal kicking.
Prefontaine would show that he had no ill effects of the injury, dodging a potential disaster when he sidestepped a blocker sent on a punt and booted the ball on the run for a second single to put Toronto up 2-0 with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Both offences were slow out of the gate with the Argos defence getting to Calvillo once and forcing two hurries.
Meanwhile, Jarious Jackson made his third straight start in place of Ricky Ray who was still recovering from an ankle injury sustained in September against the Als in Montreal.
Despite moving the ball well, the former BC Lion didn’t seem to be on the same page as his receivers in the first quarter with three drives stalling at midfield.
The defences would continue to set the tone, keeping the opposition at bay and the third single of the half was recorded when Montreal’s Sean Whyte booted a 42-yard Rouge at 12:54 of the second quarter.
Calvillo would respond with a solid drive of his own on Montreal’s next series but could only muster up a field goal from 35 yards off the leg of Whyte to cut the Toronto lead to 9-4.
It was an unlucky half for Argos linebacker Marcus Ball who picked off two Calvillo passes but neither stood as one was called abck on a penalty and the other on a challenge where it was ruled the ball hit the turf when the first-year defender caught it.
With the Als holding a slim five-point advantage, Montreal LB Shea Emry stepped in front of a Jarious Jackson pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown and opened up a 24-12 lead.
The Als would retain the ball on their final drive of the half and work their way down the field for another Whyte field goal from 27 yards out to head to the locker room down by two. The score was set up by a 47-yard leaping catch by WR Eric Deslauriers.
A minor two-point deficit at halftime was the least of the Alouettes worries however, as Brandon London, who went down on their last drive of the first half, did not return.
The Als would take their first lead of the game with 6:30 left in the third quarter when Whyte hit a 37-yarder to put Montreal up 10-9. The field goal was set up by a failed third-and-six gamble by Toronto where they faked a punt but Prefontaine’s pass was bobbled and dropped by safety Jordan Younger.
The Argos would get the first break of the first half when LB Robert McCune forced a Victor Anderson fumble and the ball was recovered by Toronto’s DL Armond Armstead at the Montreal 35 yard line. More concerning for the Als, already without London, is that Anderson was shaken up on the play and needed help getting off the field.
Toronto would capitalize with a 37-yard field goal by Waters to retake the lead but it wouldn’t last long.
Calvillo, who was held in check for most of the first three quarters, awoke before the final frame, finding Richardson in stride for a 75-yard touchdown and a 17-12 Montreal lead.
Both defences had played relatively strong football for most of the game but the Als extended their lead on one of the biggest defensive plays of the season when Emry stepped in front of a Jackson pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown and opened up a 24-12 lead.
Jackson had played a relatively clean game up until that point but finished the afternoon 20 of 39 for 239 yards and one touchdown to go along with the Emry interception.
The Als defence would hold the Argos in check the rest of the way and secure a two-game lead atop the East Division standings heading into Week 17.
The Argos can still catch Montreal for first in the East but will need some help. They welcome Winnipeg to town next Friday. Meanwhile, the Als control their own destiny but travel to an always-hostile Mosaic Stadium in Saskatchewan next week.