Ticats’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell has ‘built-in rivalry’ with Argos ahead of first Battle of the QEW

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Bo Levi Mitchell is only two weeks into his tenure as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ franchise quarterback, but he’s already getting a crash course in one of the CFL’s most heated rivalries.

Fortunately for him, hating the Toronto Argonauts comes naturally.

“I’m excited, man. I’ve been hearing about it,” Mitchell told reporters this week when asked about his first Battle of the QEW. “Just from what I’ve been in the league, I’ve had my own stuff with Toronto. Obviously been in a couple of Grey Cups and whatnot against them. So to me, I’ve got that built-in rivalry as well.”

The 33-year-old has a sterling regular-season record against the Argonauts, losing just once in 13 matchups against the Double Blue as a starter. However, the playoffs have been a different story, as Toronto has twice denied Mitchell a drink from the Grey Cup chalice.

Mitchell was a third-string rookie when Toronto and Calgary battled for a championship in 2012, watching from the sideline as his team fell 35-22. Five years later, the Texas gunslinger was already a distinguished starter when his heavily favoured Stampeders met the Argonauts in Grey Cup 105. What was supposed to be a romp for Mitchell’s team turned nightmarish on a snowy TD Place field, as Toronto pulled a stunning 27-24 upset.

Grey Cup wins against other East Division foes in 2014 and 2018 have provided the two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player with some consolation, but those losses against Toronto still hurt. Now he’s part of a Steeltown collective that harbours more ill will for the Boatmen than he does and is currently flowing up the highway to invade BMO Field in advance of Sunday’s 7:00 p.m. EDT kickoff.

“When you’ve got fans away, it’s a big deal. I’ve heard about it. I can’t really speak on it yet, but I’m excited to see what it’s like and just having some fans out there, screaming our name,” Mitchell said of the horde of Ticats supporters expected to be in attendance.

“Typically you get to hear it in an away stadium for interceptions and stuff like that. You kind of listen for it when you get tackled, whether or not the crowd cheers. I’ll be listening for the crowd to cheer for touchdowns.”

As defending Grey Cup champions, Toronto will be raising its 18th championship banner before the game. Hamilton, meanwhile, is coming off a disappointing 8-10 season that prompted them to be active in free agency and trade for Mitchell’s rights to be their new quarterback.

The early returns in Week 1 were lacklustre, as the Ticats fell 42-31 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Mitchell was 17-of-33 for 197 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in the outing, struggling to find chemistry with a host of new receivers. His message to the team this week is a simple one.

“Just stay consistent. Get rid of two-and-outs, lock into your execution. Details have to be the most important, understanding what they’re trying to do and combat that,” he urged.

“Understand, they get paid, they’re gonna make plays, but we have to have our head in it from first down, second down — whether its second-and-long, second-and-medium — whatever it is, be locked in and execute early. And just build confidence, not only with the offence, but with the offence, defence and special teams.”

With the Argonauts entering a new era with first-year starter Chad Kelly at the helm, Hamilton enters the game as a slight favourite. After years of duelling it out in the Battle of Alberta, Mitchell couldn’t be more thrilled to test out the CFL’s other iconic rivalry.

“To be a part of this rivalry right now and what’s about to happen, I’m excited to see what it’s about and be on the right side of it.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.