Mital shines as Argos beat Tiger-Cats in pre-season-tilt

GUELPH, Ont. — The Toronto Argonauts may have found their next top receiver.

Kevin Mital, the fifth overall pick in this year’s CFL draft, caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown as the Argonauts beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 25-14 in the teams’ final pre-season game on Friday at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont.

Mital’s biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when he broke free down the sideline, caught a deep pass from quarterback Bryan Scott and broke a tackle en route to an 82-yard touchdown that gave Toronto a 19-3 lead.

Toronto took control of the game through the opening 20 minutes.

Presumptive Week 1 starting QB Cameron Dukes led the Argos down the field on the first drive of the game, converting a critical second-and-10 with a 22-yard scramble before stalling out at the Ticats’ 10. Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu was good on a 17-yard field goal to give Toronto a 3-0 lead.

The offence was again forced to settle for a Hajrullahu field goal, a 29-yarder, on its second drive. The Argos led 6-0 after the first quarter.

But Dukes finally got into the end zone on the following drive after defensive lineman Jared Brinkman recorded a sack-fumble against Ticats QB Taylor Powell that he recovered on Hamilton’s 12-yard-line. Two plays later, the QB ran in untouched from the five for the first touchdown of the game.

Dukes exited the game after completing 10-of-12 passes for 129 yards while adding 27 more yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Harrison Frost took over at QB beginning with Hamilton’s next offensive play, and a pass to receiver Kaylon Geiger Sr., about halfway through the second quarter marked the first time the team moved the chains for a first down. Marc Liegghio punctuated the drive with a 36-yard field goal.

Hamilton scored its first touchdown of the game immediately following Mital’s score as Ante Milanovic-Litre punched in a one-yard rushing touchdown following a spectacular 38-yard grab from receiver Dezmon Patmon, which had set the Ticats up on the goal line. A converted two-point play from Frost to running back Chris Coleman cut the lead to eight points and Hamilton trailed 19-11 after three quarters.

Toronto went on to add two field goals in the fourth quarter, while Hamilton responded with one.

Mital, 25, was drafted out of Laval University following a decorated U Sports career which included the Hec Crighton Trophy as most outstanding player in 2022. He was also named the Vanier Cup MVP that season as the Rouge et Or won the national championship game.

Dukes is set to step in as lead pivot for an Argonauts team that’s missing 2023 CFL Most Outstanding Player Chad Kelly, who was suspended for both pre-season games and at least the first nine games of the regular season for violating the league’s gender-based violence policy.

The American Dukes compiled 760 yards on 90 attempts for two touchdowns and three interceptions in his rookie season in 2023.

Scott, who did not complete any of his four pass attempts in his own rookie season last year, received most of the playing time after Dukes exited, finishing with six completions on 11 attempts for 116 yards and a score. Veteran Nick Arbuckle, who signed with Toronto just two weeks ago, played two drives to end the first half and returned for the fourth quarter. He completed five of his seven passes.

Rookie John Matocha also received reps at QB for Toronto.

For Hamilton, Frost finished the game and completed 24-of-32 passes for 222 yards as top QB Bo Levi Mitchell, along with many other starters, sat out.

Frost gave up an interception to Toronto cornerback Tyshon Blackburn with under a minute remaining in the first half, but Hajrullahu’s field-goal attempt was blown up after a muffed hold.

Both Toronto and Hamilton lost to the eventual Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes in last year’s playoffs, with the top-seeded Argos suffering an upset in the division final after the Tiger-Cats were blown out in the East semifinal.

The Tiger-Cats open their season with a Week 1 game in Calgary next Friday, while the Argonauts host the B.C. Lions on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024.

The Canadian Press, known in French as La Presse Canadienne, is a national news agency headquartered in Toronto. It was established in 1917 as a vehicle to permit Canadian newspapers of the day to exchange their news and information.