TORONTO – Three Toronto quarterbacks orchestrated touchdown drives while the Double Blue defensive line got after Hamilton’s pivots in a 41-23 Argos win over the Tiger-Cats Thursday night in pre-season action.
The Argonauts totalled 359 yards passing while 8 quarterback sacks were posted in the victory.
For the second straight year, the Argos put on somewhat of a retro experience for their fans, hosting their home pre-season game at legendary Varsity Stadium, which acted as their home from 1916-1958.
Ricky Ray got the start under centre for the Argonauts after sitting out last week’s pre-season win over Winnipeg while his former backup, Zach Collaros, countered for the Ticats. Collaros made his Ticats debut in last week’s pre-season win over the Montreal Alouettes going 5 of 8 for 52 yards.
After the Tiger-Cats opened the scoring with a 39-yard field goal by Justin Medlock, Ray went to work on his second possession of the game. The future hall of famer knew that he would only see limited time prior to their opener next week in Winnipeg. He dumped the ball off to rookie Anthony Coombs a pair of times before spotting SB Chad Owens wide open down the seam for a 27-yard touchdown and an early 7-3 lead.
After the Argonauts forced Collaros to a two-and-out, Ray’s day was done and Trevor Harris entered with 4:41 remaining in the first quarter. Harris and the Argos were forced to punt but it would result in the next big play of the game. Hamilton returner Tavoy Moore fumbled the boot, Argos DB Jermaine Gabriel pounced on the ball in the endzone for the Toronto touchdown.
After a bit of a shaky start, Collaros settled in near the end of the first frame. He found Bakari Grant for a 31-yard gain before finding RB Isi Sofele and WR Andy Fantuz for gains, setting the Tiger-Cats up at the Argos’ three yard line, poised to score.
After off-setting penalties, rookie defensive lineman Greg Romeus limited the damage, chasing down Collaros on second-and-goal and sacking him for a loss of 14 yards. Medlock would boot a 24-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-6.
Harris then ran his most methodical drive of the first half, putting together a 10-play possession for another major. The third-year pivot found John Chiles for 23 yards and rookie Terrell Sinkfield for 11 before rolling to his left and spotting a wide open Jason Barnes for a 2-yard touchdown.
The teams traded defensive stands before Hamilton made the last move before half.
Rookie defensive back Michael Coe jumped a Harris pass, setting the Cats up just before midfield. His turnover would help Collaros spot sophomore receiver Luke Tasker for a 47-yard gain and then a 3-yard major a play later with 54 seconds left.
The teams entered halftime with Toronto holdiong a 21-13 lead.
The third quarter began and so did Mitchell Gale’s shot at quarterback and he did not take long to make his final mark on the pre-season. On his first drive, he connected with receiver Darvin Adams for a 36-yard gain and then Romby Bryant for 15 yards. The impressive six-play possession was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Adams.
Gale was just getting warmed up however; on his next possession the Albien Christian grad leaned on two of his running backs for the Argos next major. First, he handed off to Jeremiah Johnson for an 11-yard gain and promptly found Steve Slaton in the flat for 23 yards. Johnson then capped off the march by making a host of Ticat defenders miss and bulled his way into the endzone for a 24-yard touchdown and a commanding 35-13 lead.
The Argos running back battle has been the most talked about storyline in training camp. Slaton and Johnson handled the majority of the duties in the second half after Anthony Coombs and Curtis Steele split reps in the first half.
Hamilton countered with Stephen McGee at quarterback but he too cold not avoid Toronto’s active pass rush. Romeus added another sack, as did Delano Johnson and Ivan Brown recorded two of his own.
Perhaps the next most-discussed area on the Argos roster is the defence which will field a cast of newcomers under new defensive coordinator Tim Burke.
After Medlock knocked another field goal, Gale’s productive half would hit a snag with 10:28 remaining. A tipped pass landed into the hands of former Saskatchewan Roughrider defender Abraham Kromah who took it back for the touchdown.
The Argos would seal it with two late field goals off the foot of Josh Jasper as both team’s concluded their pre-season schedule.
Hamilton will now begin prep on their Grey Cup rematch in Week 1 next Sunday in Saskatchewan while the Argos head to Winnipeg to open the 2014 CFL regular season on Thursday.