TORONTO — Chad Kelly and Damonte Coxie were the last men standing in the passing game duel against Jake Maier and Reggie Begelton that ended on a 39-31 Toronto Argonauts victory over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night.
The quarterbacks traded blows all game and combined for seven majors through the air. Kelly finished 20-of-31 for 360 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in an offensive showdown at BMO Field.
Toronto’s scoring targets were veteran running back Andrew Harris alongside Coxie and DaVaris Daniels. Coxie led all Argos’ receivers with three catches for 102 yards as Toronto improved to 8-1.
Javon Leake scored what ended up being the game winner 86-yard touchdown on a punt return in the fourth quarter. It was the fourth major of the season for Leake who also had a 37-yard return earlier in the game.
Maier threw for 387 yards and four majors that went to Marken Michel, Luther Hakunavanhu and twice to Begelton, who hauled in nine passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Stampeders dropped to 3-8.
» Depth Chart: TOR | CGY
» Through the Lens: Stamps at Argos
» Box Score: Stampeders at Argonauts by the numbers
» Boatmen win aerial duel against Stampeders on Friday
» Sign up and watch CFL games on CFL+ in the U.S. and Internationally
It was an especially wild first half of play that had both teams combining for 45 points with two lead changes in the last minute of the second quarter.
The Argos began by moving the chains left and right as Kelly connected with Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Coxie to move the ball all the way to the red zone. It seemed like the Double Blue would score an easy major before defensive back Nick Taylor kept the Argos from scoring with an interception downed in the end zone.
Folarin Orimolade got his seventh sacked of the season later in the quarter beating his blocker to the outside and knocking Maier down at his own one-yard line. The ensuing return gave the Argos great field position and they capitalized on it by giving the rock to Harris four times, including a nine-yard touchdown catch to go up 7-0.
The Argonauts were back at it early in the second quarter and put together another scoring march. This time it was AJ Ouellette being featured with 25 rushing yards on the drive that ended on a two-yard touchdown run by Kelly on a run-option fake to extend the lead to 14-0 with 10:09 to go in the half.
The visitors stormed right back via the air as Maier found a streaking Michel over the middle for a 65-yard touchdown connection that cut into the lead 14-7 halfway through the second quarter.
Calgary wasn’t done and in the following drive defensive back Kobe Williams jumped a pass from Kelly and returned it to the Argos 31-yard line to put his team in scoring position. Kicker Rene Paredes scored from 31 yards to make it 14-10, but a special-teams penalty on the kickoff gave the Stamps new life and they capitalized with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Maier to Hakunavanhu to tie the game as the clock showed 4:22 left in the half.
Toronto jumped back ahead with a field goal by kicker Boris Bede that made it 17-14 with 2:23 to go.
Calgary was determined to head to the locker room with its first lead and Maier orchestrated his best drive of the game. First he connected with rookie Cole Tucker for 13 yards before finding former-Argonaut Markeith Ambles for 17 more. He capped it all off with a strike to Begelton who took it 39 yards to the house as the Stampeders jumped to their first lead of the evening, 21-17 with less than a minute remaining.
That was more than enough for the Argonauts. In fact, they only needed 16 seconds to go ahead once more as Kelly launched a bomb to a wide-open Coxie that flipped the score to 24-21 in favour of the home team with 38 seconds left in the half.
Both pivots combined for 454 yards and five touchdowns in the first two quarters of play.
The second half began with a continuation of the deep passing game show as Maier found a wide-open Begelton down the left sideline for a 47-yard major that had the visitors jumping ahead once more early in the third.
The scoring calmed down a bit until a 37-yard return by Leake set up the Argos across midfield. That was all it took for Toronto as Kelly got the ball back from Ouellette on a flea flicker to launch another deep strike, this time to Daniels for a 31-28 lead.
The long passes kept coming as Maier unloaded deep to Begelton once more for 45 yards and Paredes made it 31-31 right before the fourth quarter began.
Leake broke away from coverage to make it 38-31 with an 86-yard return halfway through the final quarter.
The Stampeders were unable to put together a last-effort drive as the Argonauts came away with the win.
It was only the second time that Toronto beat Calgary in the last 17 matches between the two teams.
The Argos now head to the road to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field on Monday, Sep. 4, same day the Stampeders host the Edmonton Elks at McMahon Stadium in a doubleheader that closes out this year’s OK Tire Labour Day Weekend.