July 27, 2023

TDA Look Back: McManis turned the tide for Argos

Acadia Athletics

I remember sitting in the press area at Wolfville’s Acadia University at last year’s Touchdown Atlantic game and looking up at the game clock.

It was inside the three-minute warning and the Saskatchewan Roughriders were leading the Toronto Argonauts by two points.

I’d seen enough CFL games to know that chaos can ensue at any moment, and I wondered if we’d see anything to change the course of the ending of the hot, mid-July contest.

What happened next was kind of like the episode of The Office where Dwight tries to teach his coworkers a lesson about fire safety and fire drill procedures.

It looked like a normal day to the rest of the staff until someone decided to flip a switch (or in this case, light a small fire in a waste basket out of sight), to cause complete pandemonium (including Angela pulling a cat out of a filing cabinet and throwing it into the ceiling where Oscar was trying to escape).

Wynton McManis was the Dwight Schrute of the 2022 edition of the East coast game, teaching the Riders a valuable lesson as to why he’s one of the most dangerous defenders in the league and to not throw in his direction.

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After Toronto’s Boris Bede had missed his game-tying field goal attempt on the previous possession, earning a single point to cut Saskatchewan’s lead 24-22, Cody Fajardo and co. took control.

The first pass attempt of the drive was to Jakob Prall, a completion for a four-yard gain. Fajardo looked to Prall again on second-and-six, but McManis had other ideas of how the play would end.

The Argos linebacker jumped in front of Prall and snatched the football, returning it 50 yards to the house to put Toronto in front. McLeod Bethel-Thompson‘s two-point convert pass to Brandon Banks was complete and the Argonauts led 30-24.

My reaction to this game-changing moment was much like Michael Scott’s reaction to the news of the “fire” in The Office. When he comes crashing out of his office saying, “oh my god, it’s happening! Everybody stay calm!” and then proceeds to be the opposite of calm? That was me.

You can ask my fellow CFL.ca writer Chris O’Leary, who was sitting next to me when we both watched the pick-six happen. I may not have been as dramatic as Michael but come on. As a fan of CFL football, and all of the craziness that our game hands us every week, that was a perfect moment in what was a great game out East, and I was excited.

Following the pick-six, and with time running out, the Riders were driving down the field hoping to turn things in their favour. Toronto had other plans, however.

To seal the deal, Shaq Richardson hauled in an interception on a pass that was tipped off of Justin McInnis‘ hands with about 30 seconds left. That final play wasn’t necessarily needed to win the game, the Argos were already leading by six, but it was a welcomed insurance for the victory. It reminded me of the moment during the fire drill when Kevin threw a chair at the vending machine, smashing the glass to get to the goodies inside. Snacks weren’t technically needed in that moment, but why not grab some for good measure?

Does McManis do it again this year?

Well, he has one interception already this season, coming in Week 6 against Montreal, the same game he had tallied a season-high nine tackles. You can bet the six-foot-one, 225-pounder will be looking to add to that total against Mason Fine and the Riders.

Corey Mace’s group has been one of the better defensive units in the league this season – they’re tied with Montreal for points allowed 22.2 (third in the CFL) and have only allowed 13 touchdowns this season, third least in the CFL. They also boast the league’s best run defence, holding teams to 64.8 yards per game (first) and 3.9 yards per rush (second). The Boatmen are atop of the CFL in interceptions, hauling in a league-leading 12, and are tied with Winnipeg for the top spot in forcing turnovers with 18 so far this year.

McManis and his Argos are looking to improve to 6-0 on the season, a record the team hasn’t seen since 1935, while Saskatchewan looks to get above .500 to keep pace in the West with a win.

With 10 of the last 12 games decided in the final three minutes across the CFL this season, we could be in for another repeat of last year’s late-game excitement in Halifax.

Whether it’s McManis, or another player from either team, I’m sure we’re in for a wild ride in this year’s Touchdown Atlantic and I can’t wait.

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