Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Toronto Argonauts opened a new season of opportunities with a nod to the past.

Ricky Ray’s retirement ceremony saw general manager Jim Popp speak about his career, alongside Ray and his wife and two daughters. The future Hall-of-Famer thanked the fans, teammates, coaches, and his family for his 16 seasons in the CFL.

It only got worse from there.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and a few Canadian products spoiled Corey Chamblin’s Argos head coaching debut, putting in a strong top to bottom effort to sink the boatmen 64-14.

Jeremiah Masoli continued his ways of torching the Ticats rivals. He tossed four touchdowns in each of his 2018 visits to BMO field, and the win Saturday marks his sixth in seven contests against the double blue.

Defence dictated the story early. The Argos finished last in almost every defensive category a year ago, but looked collected in the first quarter, which included an interception and conceding only three points. Hamilton suffocated Toronto’s offence throughout the game, collapsing on the offence quickly, and it was knotted at three after one.

The second quarter had Lirim Hajrullahu split the uprights from 56 yards out, putting the Tabbies up front.

Simoni Lawrence left his impression too. He picked off Franklin with a one-hand snag in enemy territory. A quick connection from Masoli to Marcus Tucker for 44 yards led to a pivot plunge two plays later and a 14-3 lead after a two-point convert.

Lawrence was eligible to play today and for the next two weeks at least while the CFLPA appeals his two-game suspension following his hit on Riders QB Zach Collaros in Week 1. He later brought Franklin down in the third for the club’s second sack on the game.

Their first sack started a two-and-out and put the ball back in Masoli’s hands quickly. Four straight receptions set the table for Maleek Iron to cross the goal line, after running back Sean Thomas-Erlington was hurt in the series.

Franklin closed the half strong himself. He marched the team into field goal territory with Drew Brown connecting after five consecutive completions.

That made for most of their first half offence. Hamilton held the Argos to six points on 141 total yards and just nine rushing yards from James Wilder Jr. The Ticats turned their defence into offence, as 11 of their 20 first half points came after their two interceptions.

Then the rout commenced.

Thomas-Erlington returned to the game in a big way, starting off the second half with a 52-yard run, his longest in his third CFL season. The Canadian eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the first time, finishing with 109 on the ground and 56 more yards through the air.

Masoli found Bralon Addison for a 21-yard score and Hamilton extended their lead by six. But perhaps it was the next Hamilton touchdown which was the most impressive.

Masoli found a wide-open fullback Nikola Kalinic, while being chased down by two defenders, tossing the ball as he was falling to the ground. The Toronto boy and York alum took it to the house from 31 yards and the lead stretched to 28.

Hamilton’s offence continued to roll, by way of Masoli to Addison for the second time. On the play, Jermaine Gabriel went down trying to make the tackle, as the defensive back had his head and neck area tended to by trainers. He walked off the field under his own power.

Addison completed the Ticats sixth consecutive touchdown drive and his personal hat trick in the fourth with a 44-yard catch and run. He shined in this one with his 107 yards on six touches.

Still in the third and up 35, Brandon Banks returned a missed Brown field goal attempt 113 yards for his first special team’s touchdown on the season.

The 48-6 score marked the end of Franklin’s and Masoli’s nights. Dane Evans came in for The Ticats while McLeod Bethel-Thompson finished up for the home team. Masoli finished with 331 passing yards on 23-for-31 passing and three touchdowns, adding one more on the ground. Franklin faired a touch worse, tossing for 211 yards and an interception on 16-for-26 completions.

Bethel-Thompson in his quarter went 9-for-16 with 99 yards with a touchdown, ending the game on a pick six.

Hamilton’s offence surpassed 600 yards, while the defence allowed 322 and just 12 on the ground.

The Ticats look to make it three straight against Montreal next week while Toronto will try to regroup for a game in Saskatchewan on Canada Day.

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