Argonauts earn comeback win over rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats in first meeting

TORONTO — In their first meeting of the 2022 regular season the Toronto Argonauts overcame a 13-point deficit as they managed to get the better of the provincial rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BMO Field on Saturday night.

Toronto quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was relentless in his efforts as he helped to secure a 34-20 win over Hamilton. The Boatmen pivot, completing 17 of his 27 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown in the performance.

However, it was the Argonauts defence that gets credited with ensuring the win. A blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown, paired alongside an interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter led to 14-crucial points late in the game as Toronto overcame the adversity and moved to a 4-3 record on the year.

Cam Phillips provided a steady set of hands for Bethel-Thompson, as he has done all season long, catching four of his seven targets for  85 yards and the lone touchdown in the win. Fellow receiver, DaVaris Daniels also contributed in the Argos’ passing attack, reeling in four passes for 73 yards in the game, including a 30-yarder to set up a late Toronto field goal.

» Box Score: Ticats at Argos by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Hamilton at Toronto
» Watch: Cam Phillips helps Argos find end zone

Hamilton’s defence looked eager to to assert themselves early on in the game as a near interception from defensive back Ciante Evans forced a two and out from the Toronto offence to start the game.

With their offence on the field following the Toronto punt, the Tabbies wasted no time finding opportunities to score points early. Evans completed three of his first five passing attempts for 44 yards, helping push the Ticats into scoring-range.

While the offence would be held out of the end zone, kicker Seth Small was called upon to attempt a field goal. The first-year kicker had no trouble as he converted a 27-yard attempt to give his team a three-point lead on their opening drive.

The Ticats’ defensive unit didn’t let up as the Boatmen offence took the field for their second drive of the game. Facing a second and long Bethel-Thompson dropped back into the pocket looking to pick up the first down through the air. However, Hamilton defensive back Kameron Kelly knifed his way into the Toronto backfield to bring down Bethel-Thompson for the sack, forcing the Argos to punt.

With their offence back on the field, Evans looked determined to lead the Ticats into the end zone, as he strung together a 10-play scoring drive. Evans completed five passes on the drive, highlighted by a nine-yard touchdown pass to running back Don Jackson, giving him touchdowns in back-to-back games.

Entering the second quarter of action with a 10-0 lead, the Ticats looked poised to strike once again. Evans loaded up and threw a deep pass towards the end zone intended for Steven Dunbar Jr. Fortunately for the Argos, the ball fell harmlessly to the turf, forcing Hamilton to try for a field goal.

Small was once again called on to attempt the field goal for the Tabbies and made short work of the kick as he converted on the 28-yard attempt to help his team take a 13 point lead early in the second quarter.

With their opening drive of the second quarter, the Boatmen found their first points of the game. After a six-play drive was stifled by the aggressive defensive front of the Ticats on a second and short, Toronto kicker Boris Bede was called on to attempt a long-range field goal and delivered as he split the uprights from 44-yards out.

Toronto finally broke the back-and-forth pattern that had begun to develop through much of the second quarter, managing a score late in the half. Bede was once again was called upon to earn points for his team, and converted a 30-yard attempt, helping his team close the gap as Hamilton took a 14-6 lead into the half.

Hamilton continued to build on their lead to open the second half of action. Evans engineered a 10-play scoring drive highlighted by 19-yard catch and run from Jackson. However, as two straight passes intended for Dunbar fell incomplete, Hamilton was forced to bring out their kicking team. Small made good on a 22-yard attempt to help extend the Hamilton lead early in the third quarter.

Toronto’s offence looked determined to overcome the Tiger-Cat sized obstacle standing in front of them as they marched down the field and responded to the Hamilton score.

Looking downfield, Bethel-Thompson completed a 49-yard pass to receiver Cam Phillips for the biggest play of the game for the Argonauts to that point. One play later, Bethel-Thompson again looked to Phillips, this time finding him in the end zone on a 13-yard pass giving Toronto their first score of the game, while also bringing the Hamilton lead down to just three points.

After a great punt from Toronto’s John Haggerty and a questionable decision on the return from Hamilton’s Lawrence Woods, the Ticats faced a difficult situation starting with the ball on their own three-yard line.

Following two critical stops the Toronto defence forced a two and out, and with their punt unit on the field the Ticats elected to give up the safety making it a 17-16 game at the end of the third quarter.

On the ensuing drive with their defence on the field the Boatmen continued to build upon the slow, but steady bit of momentum that they had begun pickup, forcing another two and out against Hamilton.

After giving up points with their punting unit previously on the field, the Tabbies misfortune would continue. Toronto’s Trevor Hoyte came clean through on the rush and blocked the punt from Michael Domagala. Benoit Marion would recover the blocked kick and return it 24 yards for the touchdown, giving Toronto their first lead of the game.

Looking to get themselves into position to score with just over seven minutes in the game, Evans took a deep look downfield to Tim White, but the ball was deflected incomplete by Toronto defensive back Royce Metchie.

Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer felt their was contact with the ball in the air and challenged the play, with little deliberation the review fell in favour of the Ticats as defensive pass interference was called.

With the ball on the 12-yard line Hamilton would be unsuccessful in finding the end zone, but would manage points as Small converted a 17-yard field goal attempt to make it a four point game with six-minutes to play.

A -play scoring drive lead by Bethel-Thompson would help the Boatmen to extend their lead with time winding down on the final quarter of play. A 30-yard completion to Daniel to put his team on the Hamilton 11-yard line highlighted a drive that would end with an 18-yard field goal convert from Bede, giving his team a 27-20 lead.

Needing to convert on a third down and 10 from their own 30-yard line to keep Hamilton’s hopes alive, Evans heaved a pass downfield, but Toronto defensive back Chris Edwards read the pass and jump in front of PLAYER for the interception. Edwards returned the interception 40 yards for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach as Toronto took a score win in the first game of the season series.

The Ticats won’t have to wait very long for a chance to redeem themselves, as these two rivals will meet in Hamilton for a Week 10 rematch, and the second of their four meetings schedule over the coming weeks.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.