Argos rally to beat Bombers, take over first in the East

There’s nothing like a visit to the pumpkin patch with your family after taking first place in the Canadian Football League’s East Division.

That’s what Argos quarterback Ricky Ray will do Sunday, which also happens to be his 38th birthday.

It’s well deserved, too, after a zany 29-28 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Saturday evening before 15,532 at BMO Field.

Ray added two more milestones to a legendary career that began in 2002 with the Edmonton Eskimos, and they came in a game where the Argos had guts and luck on their side in the end.

Ray engineered a last-minute touchdown drive that capped another historic performance. He completed 31 of 42 passes for 423 yards — including on the nine-play, 88-yard drive for the winning touchdown — and became just the fourth CFL quarterback to throw for 60,000 career yards.

He completed 17 of 24 passes for 218 yards in the first half, exactly what he needed to reach 5,000 yards for the season. It marked the fourth 5,000-yard season in Ray’s career, and placed him with Anthony Calvillo and Doug Flutie as the only quarterbacks in CFL history to have four or more seasons of 5,000 yards.

“It’s special, and to do it with this franchise, to do it here with this team that has been so special to me, it will be something I will cherish,” said Ray, who last hit the 5,000-yard mark in 2008 with the Eskimos.

“But I don’t reflect too much, especially in-season, because there’s so much more to be focusing on. I’ll look at it when I’m done (playing), and reflect on it to whoever wants to listen to me then.”

For the Argos, first place came with a rash of penalties in the first half that almost choked the life out of the team. But they overcame that, plus some gutsy play by the injury-depleted Blue Bombers, to set themselves up for a crazy final two minutes of the game.

That winning touchdown came a one-yard plunge from short-yardage quarterback Cody Fajardo that put Toronto up 29-28. The Argos went for a two-point convert but Fajardo was stopped short.

Then Winnipeg drove within field-goal range on the ensuing possession, setting up a 39-yard attempt for Justin Medlock. But his kick went wide and Argos kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, in the end zone with two receivers, caught the ball and kicked it back upfield, then out of bounds, eating up the final seconds on the clock.

“We do it every week,” Argos coach Marc Trestman said about that play and other rare situations. “All the scenarios, all the time frames, we walk through it all the time.”

This was the win Toronto wanted, but couldn’t get, in suffering last-minute losses in the previous two weeks.

The Argos now lead the Redblacks, on a bye this week, by one point. Ottawa plays next weekend against Hamilton, the Argos close out their season in B.C. on Nov. 4. If Ottawa beats Hamilton, the Argos will have to win against the Lions to clinch first place and a bye into the East final on Nov. 19.

In the meantime, Ray is looking forward to the pumpkin patch with wife Allyson, and daughters Chloe, 6, and Olivia, 2.