Sparse crowd watches Argos pre-season win over Als

By Dan Ralph

Awkasi Owusu-Ansah and the Toronto Argonauts defence set the tone early.

Owusu-Ansah and Aaron Berry returned first-half interceptions for touchdowns to lead Toronto past the Montreal Alouettes 24-20 on Thursday night in the first CFL exhibition game for both teams. Neither squad was especially sharp offensively before a BMO Field gathering of 5,532 spectators. Then again, both teams didn’t dress a number of their starters.

However Owusu-Ansah said it’s always huge when a defence can score.

“It sets the tone for what we want to become this season,” he said. “Whenever you can put points up on the board that’s what is most important.

“When the defence can do it, it’s definitely a plus.”

A fact not lost upon Marc Trestman, who was in his first game as Toronto’s head coach after spending the last four years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens.

“When a defence gets two scores, the analytics say you’re going to have a pretty good chance to win,” he said. “I think the biggest thing we got out of it is collectively as a team we went through the process of playing a full game and understanding a little bit more about the CFL.”

While the game doesn’t count in the standings, Owusu-Ansah said there’s no substitute for winning.

“A winning locker-room is contagious,” he said. “You want to create that environment, create the culture of winning games regardless of it’s a pre-season or regular-season game.”

Trestman agreed.

“When guys go out and are fighting for each other and are physically laying themselves on the line it’s though to say it’s an exhibition game,” he said. “It’s important to set a groundwork for winning, it’s important to see what it feels like to win.

“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves either, don’t get me wrong. But we’ve got to start somewhere.”

The Argos won’t have long to enjoy the win.

“We’re back to training camp (Saturday),” Trestman said. “We still have a real sense of urgency as we move into next week to figure out what our final roster is going to look like.

“Practice, as it has been, is going to be critically important this week.”

Trestman’s CFL return came against the team he led to two Grey Cup titles before heading to the NFL. Trestman spent five years on Montreal’s sideline (2008-12), winning league titles in 2009-10 prior to becoming Chicago’s head coach in 2013.

Trestman was fired last season as Baltimore’s offensive co-ordinator. He returned to the CFL with Toronto, joining GM Jim Popp, who hired Trestman in Montreal.

“I didn’t think about it (facing Montreal) during the game at all,” Trestman said. “I made a point of going out early today and hugging and talking to just about everybody that was there when I was there.

“I got up real early to find space there to spend time with so many people and players I care about and consider family.”

Montreal will host the Grey Cup-champion Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday night in the final exhibition game for both teams. Toronto visits the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Friday night.

The Alouettes open the ’17 campaign hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 22. Toronto’s season opener is June 25 at BMO Field versus the Ticats.

Receiver Jimmy Ralph, a free-agent rookie from Alberta, had Toronto’s lone offensive TD, a 10-yard catch from sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo at 2:07 of the fourth quarter. That put the Argos ahead 24-9 after Montreal pulled to within 18-9 following Boris Bede field goals of 46 and 23 yards in the third.

After having a five-yard TD run nullified by penalty earlier in the fourth, Montreal rookie quarterback Matthew Shiltz hit George Johnson on a 13-yard touchdown pass at 13:07. The two then hooked up on the two-point convert to cut the Alouettes’ deficit to 24-20.

Surprisingly, Montreal kicked off deep, giving Toronto the ball with 1:44 remaining at its 31-yard line. The Argos ran out the clock to cement the win.

Ricky Ray started at quarterback for Toronto, completing all three passes he threw for 26 yards before giving way to Drew Willy, who was 8-of-12 passing for 58 yards. Jeff Mathews completed 8-of-15 tosses for 110 yards and an interception before Fajardo finished 8-of-10 for 76 yards and the touchdown.

Vernon Adams Jr. played most of the opening half for Montreal, completing 4-of-12 passes for 64 yards with two interceptions. Jacory Harris was 9-of-15 for 110 yards and an interception before Shiltz came on in the fourth, going 6-of-10 for 69 yards.

Toronto’s Lirim Hajrullahu booted two converts, a single and field goal.

Bede had four field goals for Montreal.


60 Comments on Sparse crowd watches Argos pre-season win over Als

  1. mrnehnehincognito // June 8, 2017 at 11:52 pm //

    so 6 teams have played so far. Looks like Calgary has had the best off season as usually

  2. Attendance was like a HIGH SCHOOL game. Hope the greater Toronto area fans GETS IT TOGETHER by the start of the regular season in supporting the Argos in a professional manner. 2 thousand in a 25k stadium is beyond pathetic.

    • Dan Bombers // June 9, 2017 at 12:24 am //

      I think high school games draw more fans !!

      • Not in Toronto. Toronto doesn’t support the game at ANY level but somehow believes the NFL will come running. If the NFL had any interest in TO, what exactly are they waiting for?

    • Stephen Fisher // June 9, 2017 at 12:28 am //

      I would have gone to support my Alouettes, but the Als trades in the preseason have so turned me off I would cheer for Toronto, BUT they wanted full price for tickets to watch the second stringers. That’s ridiculous. If the starters are sitting out, the price should be 1/3 of the normal season prices.

  3. mrnehnehincognito // June 8, 2017 at 11:59 pm //

    preseason game on a week night. I wouldn’t worry too much.,……………….YET

  4. DeathofCFL // June 9, 2017 at 12:07 am //

    The CFL is a dying sport. It is not as enjoyable to watch as it was in the 80s and 90s.
    Going to the Exhibition grounds and dropping $50 or so for a pre season game is not appealing on either front.

    It is truly sad to say, and see, this league going downhill.

    • mrnehnehincognito // June 9, 2017 at 12:10 am //

      what don’t you like about it specifically??

    • Redblacks // June 9, 2017 at 6:52 am //

      Yeah it’s been a dying sport for 30 years now . Gotcha genius

    • Ladd Law // June 9, 2017 at 10:17 am //

      Dying only in TO . . and that’s TO’s fault. Doing well every where else.

      • Robert Shmigelsky // June 9, 2017 at 3:13 pm //

        It’s not doing that great in Vancouver either, but that has more to do with an absentee owner than “the CFL is dying.”

        A poor business plan, simply put, doesn’t equate to a successful business no matter what forum you are in.

        Though the CFL hasn’t actually been doing itself any favors with the poor decisions it has been making the last few years (constantly changing the rules, hiring Orridge, adding video review, etc)

    • CC Rider // June 9, 2017 at 12:13 pm //

      Lol…Enjoy your MLS Soccer, troll. While you can, at least.

    • You need to attend games in different cities before you make that kinda comment. Come out west because it’s alive and kicking.

  5. I thought 18,000 at the Skydome was bad. Was I wrong??

  6. I seem to remember a few years ago the apps basically gave their preseason game free to school kids. I’d humbly suggest that they do so again. Show that being away the game is FUN. You’d think that the ownership would understand that asses in seats will create an atmosphere that would draw families in again for second games eventually resulting in better overall attendance..

  7. You’re an embarrassment, Toronto.

    Maple Laffs, Craptors and Blow Jays…the only winners out of Hogtown have been the Argos but the snobs can’t see past their big fat noses.

    To the 2000 die hard Argo fans in a metro area of 6 million that showed up, I salute you.

    • I agree 100% with you! Toronto fans need a slap in the face to wake up!

    • They are holding out for the NFL team they will never get. Not because it’s better football, but because It’s a bigger league. It goes hand in hand with the “centre of the universe mentality. But I agree a big thumbs up to those that did attend.

  8. When is Michael Copeland going to be fired as president of the club. He has proven to be clueless.

    • I’m not sure it’s Copeland’s fault. What other ideas would you try? The only MASSIVE mistake this team has made under the new ownership was the crazy Grey Cup pricing. But on a game to game basis, what other ideas would you have?

  9. This is the type of game that does more harm than good to the CFL had TSN broadcast it.

  10. Get the Argos – out of Toronto now !!

    Put the team in Fort Mac – maybe temporarily , but get it out of a failing liberal state

    Yes the team has been indeferent over the years — but the PRESS in TO have killed the under the publics perception

    • "HAWKS" // June 9, 2017 at 9:52 am //

      Very well said.

    • mrnehnehincognito // June 9, 2017 at 9:55 am //

      The crowd they had in fort mac a few years ago wasn’t much better!

    • JJ Murphy // June 9, 2017 at 9:57 am //

      Look, I dislike the Argos more than anyone but quick check re you Liberal state comment.
      They exist in a city run by a former CFL commissioner, it’s not about the governance.
      The team is very poorly run. They should have given away the preseason tix, got people in, given them a taste– it’s a great place for a game.

    • Robert Shmigelsky // June 9, 2017 at 3:16 pm //

      At least we don’t have a hockey team in the Arizona desert.

  11. mrnehnehincognito // June 9, 2017 at 9:56 am //

    whats the season ticket figure in TO?

  12. Footballnut // June 9, 2017 at 9:56 am //

    Obviously Toronto is done with the cfl

    • CC Rider // June 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm //

      People used to say that about Ottawa and Montreal before them. No market is ever fully down and out, but finding the right note to engage Toronto is a difficult nut to crack.

  13. Tiger man // June 9, 2017 at 10:19 am //

    Two reasons for the small crowd….

    It’s an exhibition game.

    The argos are playing

  14. I think this is the end for the Argos.
    There is no way that these owners will bank roll a team where the fan base had dwindled. The days of millionaire’s like David Braleys and Bob Young financing teams because they love the sport, are over.
    These guys from MLSE thought they could make money in a smaller stadium with lower costs. They have been successful in business and will unload a money losing business. No one will buy the Argos.
    I think we will have an Argo dispersal draft at the end of the year and we go back to 8 teams

  15. mrnehnehincognito // June 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm //

    I think if it came down to folding the city would rally and support this team. Remember at the heart of this city there is a love for this team. Look and grey cup 100

  16. Trestman and popp will build a winner, if they do not put fans in the seats, the argos are done. It is sad that the people of Toronto would allow that. You would think after getting ripped off and humiliated by the NFL and the bills they would learn.

  17. Listen everyone, Larry Tannenbaum isn’t a billionaire because he quits and gives up on things. He’ll see this through and the Argos will become a success once more

  18. Richard // June 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm //

    Oh boy, that is not a good sign. Is this the season that Argo attendance really craters? It does makes 18,000 at the Skydome look like salad days. I’m not sure what the Argos marketing team in doing, but whatever it is it clearly ain’t working. I know it’s just a pre-season game, but this just perpetuates the perception that the Argo games are not cool – which could mean death in Toronto. We have to acknowledge that the Toronto market is not the same as other CFL cities and they have to start creating better buzz around the team. I was in a sports bar last night and Sportsnet was on for an hour, not a single mention of either CFL game. Not surprising on a Rogers station, but TSN isn’t doing much to build up the hype either. If the Argos have another season of poor attendance (or worse) than last season, it will just fuel the thinking the that CFL is dead there – which would have huge negative implications on the whole league

  19. mrnehnehincognito // June 9, 2017 at 3:07 pm //

    Argos need Drake as a cheer leader like the Raptors

  20. Scottsask // June 9, 2017 at 3:09 pm //

    This league can’t afford to lose a team, any team. The possibility of relocating a team would be extremely complex as well. This league seriously needs to look to the future and this will fall squarely on the plate of the new Commisioner. I don’t think the interest in BC is a whole lot better and unless Montreal starts to win you can throw them in the same category. There may be dark days ahead but I sure hope it can be settled because those of us commenting on these forums love this league.

  21. Ho hum. -The doom fore-tellers and self appointed market experts
    are at it again.

    Not a big crowd, that is for sure. And regular season prices did not help. But a lovely evening.

    Look forward to the regular season.

    • By the way, I wouldn’t sit on the sunny side of the stadium either with the sun in my eyes – that is the one used to document the sparse crowd.

  22. Feeling Blue // June 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm //

    Was at game. Beautiful night.Entertaining. Argos aggressive, quick, ball hawks. I think they are going to be good this year. Joe Theisman also at game. Once an Argo always an Argo. Come on out people. Sales, marketing, cheer team all working hard this year. Tail gate was good. Alot of good people around the Argos. Enjoy the season, everyone

  23. Scottsask // June 9, 2017 at 6:08 pm //

    I hope the other townspeople share your enthusiasm, and I honestly hope I’m proven wrong.

  24. mrnehnehincognito // June 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm //

    We need interest up in the 3 biggest markets Tor, MTL, Van.
    What was it MTL did 10 years ago to create such interest?
    One the opposite end of spectrum:
    Learned that Sask is over spending and getting into financial trouble too. Big loses in 2015 and no real profit on 37 mil revenue in 2016

    League needs to find a happy medium

  25. Riders13 // June 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm //

    Good Lord buddy, get over the Riders. Tomorrow’s game is a sell out and a profit for 2016 actually comes as a surprise to me. There will be more details at the general meeting, but football operations expenses were $1M less than 2015 so Jones obviously knows how to control expenses, even after the fines ;). In addition capital expenditures relating to the new stadium were a huge proportion of expenditures and any associated amortization would’ve negatively affected negative income, but not EBITDA. The more assets you have, the more amortization you have and the Riders have a shiny, new stadium, or at least capital costs associated with it. Of course, merchandise sales were done >$1M and that’s a concern, but let’s be real, the Riders still outsold all of the other CFL teams put together. Too bad the stamps couldn’t sell out their barn…maybe they’re in financial disarray?

  26. we all know the only time Calgary sells out is when the riders play there and all their 5-10 thousand alberta fans go to the whats the reason they can,t sell out if they have the greatest team mr incognito.

  27. Argonaut season ticket holder here, everything that could go wrong last season did.
    Rebuilding this franchise will be a slow process starting with putting an entertaining product on the field which I believe is possible with the new regime.
    I’m convinced that there is still a substantial amount of Toronto sports fans who are interested in this team.

  28. Really unfortunate that Ralph`s felt the need for such a knit picking article, pre season games in Toronto are always low. Not suggesting there is not work to do, just stating in was really bias to do the story with that heading

  29. It’s time to fold this team Toronto does not care, but the CFL can survive without Toronto, they can’t draw flies in Toronto. They only need to fill 8 home dates and still can’t draw. The MLS soccer team has no problem getting 25000 to their games and they have like 20 home games to fill. Maybe move the Argos to the suburbs like Oshawa are or something and they might do better, but downtown Toronto is not the place for this team.

  30. LosDrahos // June 9, 2017 at 8:03 pm //

    They support a 16th tier Soccer team but can’t support the Argos which is 2nd best football in the world or in my humble opinion kicks the NFLs ass.I do not understand Toronto…….

    • And that is my point too, some say Toronto will only support the top pro leagues but MLS is far down the list of pro soccer leagues yet have developed quite a following and good attendance. So what has Toronto FC done that the Argos aren’t doing? And why does TSN & Bell seem more interested in promoting MLS than CFL despite the CFL getting much higher ratings? They even put MLS games on CTV this season. There hasn’t been a single CFL games on CTV since the 80’s

    • The main reason, competition with teams from the States. Toronto desperately needs US approval. Beating teams from Ottawa and Winnipeg doesn’t cut it in this market. They must play teams from New York, Chicago and LA. The US recognition is what Toronto is so very desperate for. Sad, quite sad.

  31. The Toronto media is a mystery to me with it’s lack of CFL coverage. It is well known that CFL ratings are strong, even in Toronto. The Challenge is getting fans to purchase tickets. Listened to Newstalk 1010 sports a couple of days back (provided by TSN). Nothing about the Bear Woods signing, nothing about the Argo preseason game that evening, but instead, results of the French Open. Are tennis ratings that much better than the CFL? Highly doubtful. Why doesn’t TSN promote it’s own product instead?

  32. Scottsask // June 10, 2017 at 10:38 am //

    Therein lies the question.

  33. Feeling Blue hit it on the Bulls eye. Fun night atmosphere and a exciting team to watch. Ticket prices being high is BS. Any other night out doing something else will certainly COST MORE vs the price of a game ticket etc. Just lame excuses for sit at home fans who are all talk and no action.

  34. Jack the Referee // June 11, 2017 at 11:24 pm //

    I wish the league would have a new team to have ten or twelve either in Halifax, Moncton, Quebec City, or Saskatoon.

  35. Goaltender Interference // June 14, 2017 at 9:39 am //

    I love the CFL but clearly TV ratings and attendance is dropping.

    The TSN deal brought money but cable networks have fewer viewers, which means less interest and fans overall. CBC was a better fit.

    The import player rules make no sense. Canadian players are almost never in the key positions. It’s OK to have some spots reserved for Canadian players, but half is way too much. MLS has a much more realistic national/international player balance.

    And the delays slow the game. Scrap video review. Tell the officials to stop calling every little thing.

    • Robert Shmigelsky // June 14, 2017 at 1:09 pm //

      Ditto w/ scrap the video review. Most CFL fans watch all the games. The games don’t have to be perfect. I don’t think it would mean the end of the world, pardon the pun, if the refs happen to miss something. I would settle for just being entertained.

      But what I’ve been wondering, since it’s been declared by both sides that hiring Orridge has been a mistake, doesn’t that mean, ergo, the decisions he has made should all be reevaluated?

  36. Shawn Pritchard // June 15, 2017 at 1:20 am //

    Toronto for 6 million plus is just a lousy sports market. Unless your the Maple Leafs. When the jays start their rebuild avg. Attendance will plummet back to less than 20,000. And if the Raptors dont take the next step and become true contenders attendance will drop off dramatically. Nobody shows up for your amatuer sports and a great football league, with tv ratings on a big uptick , cant even draw 10,000 in a market of 6 million !!! The Nfl is great indeed, but the CFL is a great entertaining brand of football thats all OURS ! MOST of these guys playing up here were star players with their NCAA DIV 1 club. Toronto where is your civic and national pride ?? If your truly a football fan …give the Cfl and honest try. You will NEVER get an NFL team for soooooo many reasons..theirs at least 4 cities off the top of my head the Nfl goes too before Toronto. Cmon Toronto are a CANADIAN CITY RIGHT ? OR are u a wannabe American city ? Cause if u guys think of yourselves more American than Canadian …well im dumping cheering for the Blue Jays and ill go back to my childhood fav. the Chicago White Sox. To those that go to Argos games kudos ! We have alot of fun at games out west..and its not because theirs nothing else to do…believe me summers out west, theirs plenty PLENTY of entertainment choices. Cmon T.O. i dont wanna lose faith in you. Prove me wrong. Get to an AVG of 20,000 fans this year at BMO …prove me wrong.That your more than just a Maple Leaf town.Btw..CFL affordable a great seat here 60$ . I go watch an Nfl game once a year where my great seat shoots up to $175 US. And the fun meter is really about the same.

    • Great comment Shawn. I love the sport of football. Big fan of the game both north and south of the border. That said, I’ve been a loyal Argo season ticket holder for 41 seasons and bleed double blue. Unfortunately, I’ve almost given up all the Toronto “sports fans”. I really think the media plays a large part in this as well. They also want the NFL team that will NEVER arrive. Although lately, I have to admit, they are appearing to give up on their NFL dream as well. Gee, how about promoting the Canadian game then!!! I agree with your statement about the Toronto sports market. You describe it perfectly.

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