Alex Green and Brandon Banks made sure the Hamilton Tiger-Cats once again finished what they started Monday night.
Green and Banks had two touchdowns apiece as Hamilton rallied for a 42-28 Labour Day win over Toronto. Green and Banks both scored TDs in the fourth quarter — Green also added a two-point convert — as the Ticats outscored the Argos 18-0 in the frame to continue their Labour Day domination of their arch rivals.
It marked the second straight game Hamilton (5-5) came back to win. The Ticats overcame a 24-10 half-time deficit to edge the Edmonton Eskimos 25-24 at Tim Hortons Field on Aug. 23.
“The last two weeks we’re doing what you need to do and that’s finishing games,” said Hamilton coach June Jones. “We finished two games in a row and that’s what we haven’t done since I’ve been here.
“That feeling that happened last week is contagious and so when we had the bad things happen we overcame it again.”
Hamilton improved 34-13-1 on Labour Day against Toronto. The Ticats are also 5-0 at Tim Hortons Field in the annual showdown.
Toronto’s last Labour Day win in Hamilton was Sept. 3, 2012 at Ivor Wynne Stadium. But the Argos led 28-21 in the third Monday night, thanks to the Ticats.
James Franklin’s two-yard TD run, his second of the game, put Toronto ahead 28-21 at 10:31. It came after Alden Darby returned Green’s fumble 100 yards for the score at 4:39.
But Green made up for the miscue with a 21-yard TD run at 4:49 of the fourth and two-point convert that put Hamilton ahead 35-28. It was set up by Mike Daly’s interception and came after Lirim Hajrullahu’s 36-yard field goal at 2:31 cut Toronto’s lead to 28-27.
Jeremiah Masoli brought the enthusiastic Tim Hortons Field gathering of 24,221 back to its feet at 10:43, hitting Banks on a 27-yard touchdown pass to put Hamilton ahead 42-28. Masoli finished 26-of-35 passing for 385 yards and three TD strikes.
Luke Tasker had eight catches for 145 yards while Banks finished with nine receptions for 135 yards. Green ran for 115 yards on 18 carries.
“When you win a game like this it’s real easy to say, ‘Look how good we can be if we can just fix this and that,’” Tasker said. “I think we can win a lot more games if we continue to fix the little things.”
More importantly, Hamilton moved to within two points of first-place Ottawa (6-4) in the East Division standings. And the Ticats are now four points ahead of both Toronto (3-7) and Montreal (3-8), who remain tied for third.
Hamilton visits Toronto on Saturday with a chance to clinch the season series. The two teams will meet a final time at BMO Field on Oct. 12.
But now, Tasker and the Ticats can think about sweeping the home-and-home series.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I said before this game that 3-6 is a lot different than 4-5, and now at 5-5. We’re in a good place to put ourselves in a position for the playoffs.”
Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson was 14-of-29 passing for 163 yards with an interception in dropping his second straight start after opening with consecutive victories. The Argos’ offence managed just 221 net yards, compared to 543 for Hamilton.
“We showed some backbone and ability to make plays … but we lost this game in all three phases,” said Toronto head coach Marc Trestman. “I don’t think we played well enough to win.
“I don’t think we’re far off. I think we showed some things we did better tonight, particularly coming back and not only tying the game but also getting the lead after they went up 21-14 at halftime.”
Toronto fell two wins behind Winnipeg (5-6), which stands fourth in the West and would earn the crossover if the playoffs began this week. Despite that the Argos did cap their ’17 season winning the Grey Cup after dropping seven of their first 11 regular-season games.
“Our team is very well aware of what our record was after 11 games last year,” Trestman said. “We’re in a position to do that, but we’re an entirely different team.
“Right now, we have to continue to find ways to get a little better.”
Hajrullahu finished with four converts and two field goals.
Ryan Bomben had Toronto’s other touchdown. Zack Medeiros kicked four converts.
Masoli’s 19-yard TD strike to Banks at 14:52 of the second staked Hamilton to its 21-14 halftime lead. It capped a stunning 106-yard, eight-play march that came after Medeiros missed a 33-yard field goal try.
Banks appeared to make a questionable decision by running the ball to the Hamilton four-yard line. But he had a big 35-yard catch on the drive and Banks’s TD came a play after Masoli plunked a potential touchdown pass to Banks off the upright, the third time Masoli has done that in two games.
Franklin pulled Toronto even at 14-14 in the second. He scored on a one-yard TD run at 1:06 before finding offensive lineman Bomben, a former Ticat, on a three-yard touchdown pass at 6:35. Bomben’s score was set up by Alden Darby’s interception at the Hamilton 20-yard line.
Green opened the scoring with a six-yard TD run at 5:30 before Masoli hit Tasker on a 56-yard touchdown strike at 10:41.