Argonauts earn playoff berth with win over Ottawa

OTTAWA — The Toronto Argonauts secured themselves a spot in the playoffs as they earned a 45-15 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS from TD Place Saturday night.

Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson continued to build on what has been a strong season. The Boatmen pivot threw three touchdowns and completed nearly 73 per cent of his passes as he led his team in their win over Ottawa.

The Toronto defensive unit were equally instrumental in helping the team earn a win and secure a playoff spot. The Double Blue defence recorded five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in the game.

Running back A.J. Ouellette was the leading source of offensive production for the Argos, he saw 10 carries and rushed for 57 yards. Ouellette was also a major contributor in the team’s passing attack, catching all five of his targets for 33 yards and a touchdown.

» Box Score: Argos, REDBLACKS by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Toronto at Ottawa
» Watch: Bethel-Thompson connects with Gittens for TD

It was a defensive affair in the game’s opening quarter as the Argonauts and REDBLACKS traded defensive stops. Ottawa quarterback Nick Arbuckle was limited to 45 passing yards, while Toronto’s Bethel-Thompson managed just 43 yards in a scoreless first quarter.

To open the second frame of action, Ottawa would be the first team to find points. They wouldn’t reach the end zone, but REDBLACKS kicker Lewis Ward split the uprights on a 31-yard attempt to give his team a 3-0 lead.

The aggressive play of both defensive units continued in the second quarter. Ottawa defensive back Abdul Kanneh capitalized on miscommunication from the Argos offence, intercepting a pass from Bethel-Thompson in the end zone.

However, on the very next drive the Boatmen defence would come up with a takeaway of their own. Maurice Carnell broke on a pass from Arbuckle and came away with the interception to give his team the ball back at the Ottawa 30-yard mark.

The Argos needed just four plays to find points following the interception. Toronto running back A.J. Ouellette caught three of Bethel-Thompson’s four passing attempts on the drive, including a 3-yard catch for his first receiving touchdown of the year, giving Ouellette scores in consecutive games against the REDBLACKS.

Following the touchdown, the Boatmen opted to leave their offence on the field to attempt a two-point conversion. Bethel-Thompson dropped back to pass and fired a strike to DaVaris Daniels as he gave the Argos an 8-3 lead.

Ottawa looked to be matching the pace of play set by the Argonauts, Arbuckle completed a 20-yard pass to Darvin Adams on the drive to put his team inside the Toronto 30-yard line.

Toronto’s defence would again manage to stifle the efforts of the REDBLACKS, holding them out of the end zone and forcing a field goal. Ward lined up his second attempt of the night and connected on an effortless looking 36-yard field goal.

With just over a minute remaining in the second quarter, the Boatmen defence struck again. Deshaun Amos intercepted a pass intended for Nate Behar, giving Toronto an opportunity to score before the end of the quarter.

Following a 54-yard completion from Bethel-Thompson to Daniels, the Argonauts offence was standing on the Ottawa 21-yard line with a chance to advance their lead. Bethel-Thompson wouldn’t waste the opportunity as he delivered a beautifully placed ball to Kurleigh Gittens Jr. in the back of the end zone, giving his team an 18-6 lead at the half.

The REDBLACKS turned to quarterback Caleb Evans to start the second half under centre. Evans began to find his rhythm in the passing game on the team’s third possession of the new half, moving the ball downfield on a 36-yard completion to Behar.

Toronto’s defensive unit would limit the damage following the big play from Behar as they forced the REDBLACKS to settle for yet another field goal. Ward converted the 35-yard attempt for his third make of the night, cutting the Toronto lead to nine.

With under four minutes remaining in the third quarter Ottawa came away with a much needed defensive stop and forced the Argonauts to attempt a long field goal.

Bede lined up a 50-yard attempt and missed wide left as the ball fell into the hands of REDBLACKS return specialist DeVonte Dedmon. Dedmon opted to advance the ball, but Toronto linebacker Jack Cassar worked his way downfield to cover the Bede miss. A hit from Cassar jarred the ball loose and Toronto would  recover the fumble on the Ottawa eight-yard line.

Just two plays later, the Boatmen were standing on the goal line and Chad Kelly was called upon to attempt the quarterback sneak. Kelly made the most of his opportunity as he surged forward for the short-yardage score, giving his team a 25-9 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Toronto didn’t take their foot off the gas entering the final quarter of action. Argos’ defensive lineman Wynton McManis was credited with the team’s third interception of the game as he pulled down a pass from Evans. Following the interception from their defensive unit, Bethel-Thompson found receiver Markeith Ambles in the end zone with a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Ottawa’s fortunes would take a turn for the worst, Evans would throw consecutive interceptions that would be returned for touchdowns. Carnell broke on a ball for his second interception of the game as he returned it 35-yards for the score.

On the very next possession for the REDBLACKS offence, Toronto’s Chris Edwards intercepted a pass that he would return 89-yards for the final dagger in the game.

Looking ahead to Week 17 the Argonauts will travel west to take on the Calgary Stampeders from McMahon Stadium. The REDBLACKS will also be headed west as they matchup with the BC Lions for a Friday Night Football matchup in Vancouver.

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