Adjei: Late-game heroics help Argos conquer Tim Hortons Field house of horrors

Photo courtesy: Toronto Argonauts

With Halloween approaching the Argos entered their own house of horrors at Tim Hortons Field. 

The boys in double blue were attempting to win in Hamilton for the first time in four years — 1,473 days to be exact.

The game started out the way most recent match-ups have in the Hammer, with the Tiger-Cats taking an early lead. On Hamilton’s second possession of the game the Ticats started to move the ball by exploiting the Argos on the ground between the tackles, similar to how Ottawa found success the week before.

On the seventh play of the drive, Jeremiah Masoli finds Sean Thomas-Erlington for a 24-yard touchdown. Brandon Revenberg really got this play going by using Shawn Oakman’s aggressiveness against him at the line. He worked his way to the second level, kicking out Dexter McCoil, and allowing STE the space he needed.

Steven Dunbar Jr. provided the last key block near the goal line on Jamal Peters, capping the score bringing the Cats to an early 6-0 lead. The ground game continued to work for the Ticats in the first quarter as Maleek Irons was able to rip off back-to-back runs of 20 and 17 yards. They led to a 28-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet extending Hamilton’s lead to nine.  

The second quarter saw Hamilton take advantage of their short passing game. With the help of missed tackles by Argo defenders, these short passes turned into longer gains, keeping Hamilton’s offence on the field and allowing them to win the time of possession battle in the first half. 

The Argos offence barely saw the field with their first points of the game coming thanks to a Boris Bede punt further aided by a holding penalty which forced the Ticats to start from inside their own 10-yard line.

After a key sack from McCoil, the Argos lined up in a pressure look which brought one more defender than Hamilton could handle. Masoli was forced to take the sack on the two-yard line leading to the Ticats taking a safety on the next play to save field position.

To end the first half the Argos offence showed some signs of life and McLeod Bethel-Thompson was able to lead the team down for three points using his arm and legs in a timely fashion.

In a first half that was incredibly one-sided, the score was miraculously only 12-5 Tabbies.

The defensive battle continued well into the second half, with both teams having drives stall. The offence for the Argos picked up late in the thirrd quarter when Ricky Collins Jr. caught a short pass up the middle from Bethel-Thompson, eluding tackles and extending a five-yard pass into a 27-yard gain.

That moment fired up the team as the very next play Kurleigh Gittens Jr. catches a post over the middle with safety Tunde Adeleke converging on him. The momentum-shifting plays from both Collins Jr. and Gittens Jr. helped to energize the sidelines. The Argos used these plays to get another three points on this drive to cut the lead to 13-8. 

The game really opened up in the fourth quarter, which started with a rallying Hamilton challenging Toronto with their vertical passing game for the first time during this match-up.

Toronto’s defensive backs who were accustomed to seeing shorter patterns run in the first half, were up against Hamilton adjustments. Hamilton was able to successfully counter by switching gears, putting the Toronto secondary off balance. Dunbar Jr. navigated the middle of Toronto’s zone and caught a perfectly placed ball by Masoli, setting up a Jaelon Acklin deep post in the end zone. This target was covered well by the Argos, with two defenders on the play, however Crezdon Butler slightly overran the play giving Acklin just enough space to bring it down. 

With Toronto down 20-8 and under 10 minutes of game time left, they were faced with the challenge of essentially having to score on every possession. Bethel-Thompson seemed to figure out the Ticats zone schemes, throwing underneath and letting his receivers do the work.

A key roughing the passer penalty on Ja’Gared Davis took away an interception by Hamilton’s Kameron Kelly, giving Toronto life in the waning minutes of the game. Toronto proceeded to work their way down field, with a shovel pass to Chandler Worthy at the nine-yard line. This play worked to perfection as Worthy expertly navigated the Ticats defence finding his way into the end zone for a touchhdown.

Toronto cut the lead to five and with momentum now on their side, the defence came up big, holding Hamilton to a two-and-out, getting the ball back with seven minutes and 15 left Bethel-Thompson continued to work quickly as the possession unfolded.

With just over four minutes left in the game, DaVaris Daniels snatches a contender for CFL Catch of The Year. Daniels ran a straight go-route in the boundary, well defended by Cariel Brooks, forcing an unbelievably athletic display by Daniels which resulted in a 26-yard, 360 touchdown.

Hamilton took possession down one point and the Ticats isolated Thomas-Erlington on Trevor Hoyt leading to a 28-yard gain. Hamilton managed to take the lead with a field goal, after a heavily contested and reviewed pass interference call.

That set the stage for Bethel-Thompson driving the Argos 30 yards to get into field goal range with the help of a key first down grab by rookie Canadian receiver Dejon Brissett. Boris Bede hit the walk-off field goal as time expired, giving the Argonauts a storybook win at Tim Hortons field.

It’s a massive victory for the double blue, giving them a four-point lead in the East Division, securing their foothold in first place with five games remaining on the schedule. The win also should boost morale with the Argos beating a fully rested Ticat team while only coming off four days rest. M. Night Shyamalan could not have written a better ending to the Thanksgiving match-up for the Argos, who now are in the driver’s seat in the East.