Argonauts punch ticket to Grey Cup with win over Alouettes

TORONTO — The Toronto Argonauts are heading to the 109th Grey Cup.

With the Argonauts 34-27 win in the Eastern Final against the Montreal Alouettes, Toronto will play in next week’s Grey Cup in Regina.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for two touchdowns and nearly 300 yards in the win. Backup quarterback Chad Kelly also threw a touchdown pass. Andrew Harris led the Argos backfield and contributed a touchdown in his return to the field from injury. A.J. Ouellette had 91 total yards and a touchdown. Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and DaVaris Daniels combined for 205 yards and each found the end zone in the game.

Montreal quarterback Trevor Harris had a spectacular performance despite the loss, throwing for over 350 yards and a touchdown while completing 83 per cent of his passes. Als rookie Tyson Philpot flashed his playmaking ability as he hauled in each of his eight targets for over 100 yards and a touchdown in the game.

» Through the Lens: Alouettes at Argonauts Pre-Game
» Through the Lens: Eastern Final
» Boxscore: Als, Argonauts by the numbers

The Montreal Alouettes had the ball first on Sunday afternoon. Trevor Harris and co. started to move down the field on the drive that included a nine-yard gain from Tyson Philpot and a five-yard rush from Willian Stanback, but the Argos defence stood tall.

Montreal had to punt the ball away and it appeared that Brandon Banks was going to have to take a knee in the end zone for the rouge, but the Argos receiver had other plans. Banks took the ball out and ran down the sideline and returned to set up the Argonauts first possession of the contest on their own 31-yard line.

Bethel-Thompson first found Gittens Jr. for a 16-yard gain before tossing to Ouellette for a 46-yard catch-and-run to bring Toronto down inside the Als’ 20. The Argos pivot looked for Cam Phillips in the back corner of the end zone but the ball was tipped off his fingers and it was incomplete.

Toronto was then charged with a time count violation and they had to move back five yards. On second-and-15, Bethel-Thompson looked for Banks, who appeared to have hauled in the 16-yard catch for the first down. Als head coach Danny Maciocia threw the challenge flag saying that the ball hit the ground, but the challenge was was unsuccessful.

Bethel-Thompson then handed off to Andrew Harris, who found a gap and rushed into the end zone on his first touch of the game in his return to the field from injury. The convert was good and the Argos took a 7-0 lead with nine and a half minutes left in the first quarter.

To start Montreal’s next possession, Trevor Harris looked for Philpot again, who hauled in the 35-yard pass. But after a one-yard gain from Fletcher on the ground, and another six from Julian-Grant, the Alouettes had to settle for a field goal. The 25-yard attempt cut Toronto’s lead to 7-3 with six and a half minutes on the clock.

The Argonauts didn’t have an answer on their next drive as Montreal’s defence held the home team to a two-and-out.

On Montreal’s ensuing drive, Trevor Harris tossed to Julian-Grant on the second play and this time it was the Argonauts defence that made a big play. Jamal Peters wrapped up the Alouettes receiver to forced the fumble. Royce Metchie recovered the football and then lateraled to DaShaun Amos who returned it 16-yards and bringing the Argos offence back on the field.

Andrew Harris caught a screen pass from Bethel-Thompson for 38-yards, 29 of those yards coming after the catch, on the first play of the possession. After a nine-yard catch from Banks, it was the other Argonauts running back who found the end zone this time. Ouellette hauled in the seven-yard catch-and-run touchdown. With the completed convert, Toronto extended their lead to 14-3 with just under two minutes left in the first quarter.

Toronto’s defence held strong once again as the second quarter started, forcing the Alouettes to punt the ball away.

The Argos added to their lead when they hit the field on the next possession. After moving down to the Alouettes 46-yard line, Chad Kelly came in on second-and-one and appeared to be in for the QB sneak. But the Argos backup pivot dropped back and tossed to wide open DaVaris Daniels, who ran into the end zone for the touchdown. With the completed convert, Toronto added to their lead 21-3 with nine minutes left in the half.

Montreal responded with their own touchdown on the ensuing drive. Philpot hauled in the 36-yard gain, seven yards coming after the catch, and ran into the end zone for the score. Cote’s convert was good as the Alouettes cut the Argonauts lead to 21-10 with 6:13 left in the second frame. The drive was highlighted by a pair of big plays from Eugene Lewis including a 31-yard gain and one of 15 yards.

The Alouettes defence still didn’t have an answer for Toronto’s offence as Bethel-Thompson moved the chains with back-to-back runs from Andrew Harris (eight and four yards, respectively), followed by two big plays from Daniels (21 yards) and Ambles (19 yards), and another Harris run (seven yards). That brought the Argos to the Alouettes six-yard line at the three minute warning.

Bethel-Thompson looked for Daniels in the end zone who was covered by Nafees Lyon. Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie challenged the play for defensive pass interference, but it was unsuccessful bringing up third and three. Toronto decided to go for it on third down, trying to draw the Alouettes offside but Montreal didn’t budge, bringing out Bede for the 13-yard field goal attempt. He was good on the kick and the Argos took a 24-10 lead with 2:38 seconds left in the half.

Trevor Harris and co. started moving the chains when they got the ball back, and after back-t0-back throws to Spieker for 25 and 19 yards, respectively, Montreal was down to the Toronto 10-yard line. But after back-to-back sacks, one from Chris Edwards followed by one from DeWayne Hendrix, the Alouettes had to settle for a 30-yard field goal. That score cut the Toronto lead to 24-13 with 15 seconds left in the half.

Montreal started the second half with the ball and didn’t take very long to score a major. On just the second play of the half, Stanback took off for a 52-yard run right into the end zone. Montreal then found Philpot wide open in the back of the end zone for the two-point convert. With the three-play, 68-yard drive, the Alouettes cut the Argos lead to 24-21 just a minute and half into the second half.

Toronto responded with a field goal after moving the chains down to the Alouettes 28-yard line. Bede was good on his 35-yard attempt, adding to the home team’s lead (27-21) with 10:19 left in the quarter. The drive covered 51 yards in seven plays included a Banks attempt on the sideline for a first down that was ruled incomplete on second-and-10, bringing up third down and Bede onto the field for the three-point score.

Montreal scored on their ensuing drive that moved 46-yards in 10 plays, adding three points to their score. Cote’s 33-yard field goal attempt was good, cutting the Argonauts lead to 27-24 with 4:51 left in the third frame. Lewis had two catches on the drive of 12 yards each while Jake Wieneke hauled in a 21-yard pass helping move the chains.

The scoring continued for the Argonauts on their next possession with Gittens Jr. finding the end zone as the third quarter was coming to a close. Bethel-Thompson found his favourite receiver from the regular season that beat Pickett, who was in coverage, for the 31-yard score. On the drive covered 70 yards in eight plays, the team used both their aerial and ground attack as Gittens Jr. and Ambles caught passes while Andrew Harris and Banks added rushes and Chad Kelly had a pair of QB sneaks. The score was 34-24 as the final frame began.

Scoring slowed down as the fourth quarter was underway, with both teams trading punts.

On the Alouettes next time with the football, Montreal moved down into field goal range on a drive that included big play from Philpot for 36-yards. Cote’s 35-yard field goal cut Toronto’s lead to 34-27 with just over four minutes left in the game.

That would be the final scoring play of the game as the Argonauts punched their ticket to the Grey Cup.

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