TORONTO — Emmanuel Arceneaux had just one catch in the second half but made it count.
Arceneaux’s 53-yard TD grab with just over seven minutes remaining earned the B.C. Lions a 33-17 milestone win over the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday night.
Arceneaux broke two tackles en route to the end zone at 8:33 of the fourth quarter to anchor the Lions’ 500th all-time victory. B.C. outscored Toronto 20-7 in the final frame for its third straight victory.
“Manny was behind the linebackers underneath the free safety and I put it in a spot where only he could get it,” said Lions quarterback Kevin Glenn.
“Argos linebacker Shane) Horton kind of stuck his hand out at the last minute and it was just over his hand, which was a perfect pass, I guess, and Manny actually caught it.
“That’s the type of stuff we look for in his play. He’s a big receiver, a big target to go across the middle like that, catch balls, bounce off guys and still score. It was a very big play at that time, one of those momentum shifters.”
Ronnie Yell’s 31-yard interception return TD with 1:56 remaining cemented B.C.’s 17th win in its last 19 meetings with Toronto, to the dismay of an announced season-high Rogers Centre gathering of 18,283. That boosted the Argos average attendance to 17,562 through four home dates.
B.C. pulled into a third-place tie with Winnipeg and Saskatchewan in the West Division standings. Edmonton and Saskatchewan (both 6-1) are tied for first and with both the Eskimos and Riders having won earlier this weekend, the Lions had to beat Toronto to keep pace.
“Shoot, we’ve got to keep winning,” Glenn said. “You want to stay in the race, you’ve got to keep winning.
“This is a pretty good race in the West.”
And it’s going to get even better Sunday when B.C. hosts Saskatchewan.
Toronto played its second game in five nights after a 38-21 home win over Winnipeg on Tuesday night. B.C. did little offensively after going ahead 10-0 in the first and Ricky Ray’s 18-yard TD strike to Terrell Sinkfield just 16 seconds into the fourth put the Argos ahead 17-13.
B.C. countered with Paul McCallum’s 32-yard field goal at 2:51 before going ahead 19-17 on his 27-yard boot at 5:30, set up by Tim Brown’s second 70-yard punt return. Arceneaux and Yell then clinched the win with their touchdowns.
However, it was solid special-teams play by Brown (10 punt returns, 168 yards) and punter Ricky Schmitt (10 punts, 45.2-yard average) as well as stout defence – Toronto mustered just 245 net offensive yards – that gave Glenn and Co. the chance to come up big late in the game.
“It was a team victory because those two aspects held us in the game, then we made some plays,” said Lions head coach Mike Benevides.
A fact not lost upon Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich.
“I thought we got beat on special teams and on offence,” he said. “We made too many mistakes, a fumble early and then getting stopped three times on short drives, our defence just got worn down.”
Toronto remains atop the East Division, four points ahead of Ottawa, Hamilton and Montreal (all 1-6 records).
“It’s certainly better than not being in first place,” Milanovich said. “The guys in that lockerroom aren’t proud of our record.
“We’re still focussed on getting better with each game and heading into the playoffs.”
Glenn finished 14-of-25 passing for 208 yards. Stefan Logan, replacing CFL rushing leader Andrew Harris (foot), ran for 145 yards and added five catches for 49 yards. Arceneaux recorded three receptions for a game-high 81 yards.
“It’s like we have two starting tailbacks on our team,” Glenn said. “It’s like the same situation with the quarterback position, we’ve got two starting quarterbacks on our team.
“We didn’t change our offence or anything for Stefan and he did the same things when Andrew is in there.”
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay also saw his first game action, the first of his three series coming with the Lions leading 10-0 in the first quarter. Lulay spent the first six weeks on the injured list following off-season shoulder surgery, then came on the roster last week as Glenn has started every game for the Lions.
“It was pretty close to what I wanted,” Benevides said. “In the end it was the second phase of the process.
“Last week was the sidelines, being a backup and listening to all the adjustments. Then this week was actually getting into the line of fire a little bit. That was important.”
B.C.’s defence sacked Ray twice but applied consistent pressure throughout on the Toronto quarterback, who finished 23-of-39 passing for 181 yards with a TD but also two interceptions.
“They were able to get a little bit of pressure but I just didn’t play well,” Ray said. “I tried to hang in there but I just didn’t get the job done.”
B.C. got a break early in the third when Toronto’s Dwight Anderson recovered a Shawn Gore fumble following a six-yard catch and returned it to the B.C. 20-yard line. But Gore was ruled down by contact and the visitors maintained possession.
McCallum booted three converts and four field goals.
Toronto’s Swayze Waters kicked three field goals, a convert and single.