Ottawa REDBLACKS notch first win of season over Argonauts

TORONTO — The Ottawa REDBLACKS earned their first win of the season, as they topped the division rival Toronto Argonauts in a defensive affair on Sunday evening.

In his third game as the team’s starter, Caleb Evans led the REDBLACKS to a 23-13 win over the Boatmen at BMO Field to close out Week 8 of league action. The young quarterback completed 82.8 per cent of his passing attempts, completing 24 of 29 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.

Jaelon Acklin continued to thrive with Evans under centre, reeling in seven of his 10 targets for 144 yards and a touchdown in the win over Toronto.

Nate Behar saw limited targets in the game, but made the most of his workload catching all four of his chances, including a seven-yard touchdown to help secure the win for Ottawa.

Despite the loss, Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson continued his impressive stretch of games, completing 26 of his 40 passing attempts for 340 yards and a touchdown. The Toronto quarterback surpassed 10,000 career passing yards as a member of the Argonauts in the loss on Sunday.

» Box Score: REDBLACKS, Argos by the Numbers
» Evans, Acklin combine for big game in Ottawa’s first win
» Through the Lens: Ottawa at Toronto
» Watch: Evans connects with Acklin for Ottawa TD

Toronto was met by a stingy Ottawa defence to open the game, the unit forced two straight incompletions including a pass breakup from Sherrod Baltimore to halt the Argo’s drive.

It didn’t take the Ottawa offence long to find their rhythm, following the punt from Toronto. Acklin caught a 48-yard pass from Tyrie Adams to get the REDBLACKS beyond the Toronto 40-yard line with their first offensive play of the game.

But the REDBLACKS’ offensive attack would be met by a stout Boatmen defence, as they would be forced to try for a long field goal. Ottawa kicker Lewis Ward lined up a 46-yard attempt that sailed through the uprights to give Ottawa an early 3-0 lead.

Bethel-Thompson started the next Toronto drive determined to erase the Ottawa lead, completing back-to-back passes for a quick 35-yards to push his team over and into Ottawa’s end of the field.

Following the two completions from the Toronto pivot, Gittens Jr. appeared to catch a pass that would give the Argos a frsh set of downs, but after a review from the officials, it was ruled incomplete and Toronto would be forced to settle for a field goal.

Argonauts kicker Boris Bede connected on a long-range attempt of his own, making a 42-yard field goal to even the game midway through the first quarter of action.

With just under a minute remaining in the first quarter, Ottawa would regain their lead with as Ward made his second field goal of the game’s opening quarter. This time connecting from 31-yards to give his team the lead at the end of the first quarter.

Ottawa’s offence started the second quarter of action pinned on their own five-yard line. The aggressive play of the Argos defensive unit didn’t make the difficult situation any more comfortable for the REDBLACKS as they forced an errant throw from Evans on second down that fell incomplete, forcing a REDBLACKS punt.

Toronto was set up in good field position following the Ottawa punt, starting the drive near midfield. They would need just five plays to find the end zone. Gittens highlighted the drive, catching three passes for 35 yards. But it was follow receiver Brandon Banks who would manage to find the end zone.

Bethel-Thompson found the veteran receiver with a beautifully placed throw for a 29-yard touchdown pass, giving his team a four point lead at the midway point of the second quarter.

The Boatmen continued to apply pressure, on the next Ottawa drive, Shane Ray would outmuscle the REDBLACKS offensive line to bring down Evans for the sack, forcing a two and out for Evans and the Ottawa offence.

With just over five minutes remaining in the first half, Bethel-Thompson engineered a methodical 12-play scoring that started on Toronto’s own 14-yard line. While they would be held out of the end zone, Bede would convert on a 32-yard field goal attempt to give the Argos a 13-6 before the end of the half.

With time-winding down, Ottawa looked determined to get back on track and put points on the scoreboard. Evans completed two quick passes, giving his team a chance to score. With the ball at the Toronto 30 with less than 20 seconds in the half, Evans found Acklin in the end zone with a 30-yard touchdown pass to even the score 13-13 heading into halftime.


Ottawa began the second half of action with a long sustained drive of their own. Evans drove the Ottawa offence downfield in nine plays. However, the REDBLACKS drive was stalled by a Toronto defence that would bend, but not break as they stopped an Evans run on second down.

The REDBLACKS again asked for assistance from their veteran kicker, and again Ward delivered as he knocked through a 21-yard field goal attempt to give his team an early third quarter lead.

Following the field goal from Ward, Ottawa continued to keep the momentum in their favour. Defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin forced a fumble on Toronto’s Harris that Ottawa defensive back Patrick Levels managed to recover, giving the REDBLACKS’ offence the ball back at midfield.

Toronto’s defensive unit would be make up for the forced turnover as they stifled an opportunity for the REDBLACKS to find points with good field position. Defensive lineman Shawn Oakman bullied his way into the Ottawa backfield recording a sack-forced fumble on Evans, which Oakman recovered himself.

Despite the electrifying play from the Argos defensive unit, the offence was unable to ignite a spark, as the defensive back-and-forth between the two teams continued to dominate the third quarter. Ottawa would manage to hang onto a 16-13 entering the final quarter of action.

With just under ten-minutes to play, Evans had the Ottawa offence driving down field, finding Acklin twice for 35 yards, before a 12-yard reception from Nate Behar on a second down helped breathe new life into the Ottawa drive.

An objectionable conduct penalty against Toronto defensive lineman Wynton McManus set the REDBLACKS up with a first down from the Boatmen seven-yard line.

Evans wasted no time taking advantage of the field position, as the Ottawa pivot fired a seven-yard strike to Behar for a touchdown, giving Ottawa a 10 point lead with just over six-minutes to play.

With just over two minutes remaining in the game Toronto had the ball on their own seven-yard line as they attempted to mount a late-game comeback. On a critical third down, Bethel-Thompson completed a 34-yard pass to Tommy Nield to keep the hopes of the Boatmen alive.

However, the Argos luck would run out, facing another must-convert third down a Bethel-Thompson pass fell through the hands of Banks for an incompletion as the REDBLACKS’ offence took over downs, as they earned their first win of the 2022 season.

Entering Week 9 the Ottawa REDBLACKS will host Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders, while the Toronto Argonauts will be facing off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the first time of the 2022 regular season.

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