Toronto Argonauts beat Tiger-Cats in celebratory home opener

TORONTO — Chad Kelly scored 18 points on three rushing touchdowns as the Toronto Argonauts celebrated the raise of their 18th banner with a 32-14 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at BMO Field on Sunday.

Toronto’s pivot completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards to go with his three scores, as the Argos gifted the first 10,000 fans to enter the stadium with a replica of the 109th Grey Cup ring.

Wide receiver Damonte Coxie caught six passes for 131 yards and veteran running back Andrew Harris added a rushing major as the current champions moved to 1-0 with the win.

Veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell had a tough evening against Toronto’s defence, completing 16 of 24 passes for 158 yards and two interceptions before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. Backup Matthew Shiltz took over trailing by three scores and went 9-of-10 for 81 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort for the Ticats.

Running back James Butler had 57 yards and a score and wide receiver Tyler Ternowski added a major of his own as Hamilton dropped to 0-2 on the season.

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» Box Score: Ticats, Argos by the numbers

Kelly’s first regular season drive as a starter was an uneventful one and ended in a quick two-and-out.

The Argos special teams then pinned the Ticats deep into their own territory and a defensive effort by Toronto forced a punt by the visitors from their own end zone. Javon Leake returned the kick to Hamilton’s 38-yard-line to give the offence a good field position.

Kelly then found DaVaris Daniels for a 20-yard-gain but a holding penalty negated the play. Toronto’s pivot almost found Cam Phillips in the end zone on second-and-17, but defensive back Dexter Lawson Jr. deflected the pass – almost catching it himself – causing punter John Haggerty to come in for a single, 1-0.

Mitchell then came in for his second drive and was able to move the ball against into Double Blue territory. The veteran quarterback found receiver Duke Williams to move the chains on second down, then two plays later he called his own number for a rare scramble that went for a first down, before converting third and one with a quarterback sneak. Another catch by Williams made it first-and-goal but the drive ended on an interception by defensive back Qwan’tez Stiggers inside the end zone, the first turnover of the game.

Kelly took the field again and immediately found Coxie on a corner route for a chunk play. The Ticats defence – led by defensive lineman Malik Carney – swarmed AJ Ouellette on the next play for a six-yard loss. It seemed like the Argos would have to punt once more but a misconduct penalty on Hamilton gave Toronto new life on the drive.

That second opportunity turned into a completion by Kelly – with a late-hit-penalty yardage added to it – that gave the Argos first-and-goal from the seven-yard line. The signal-caller then did what he did best last year, a designated quarterback run to break the plane of goal and extend the lead to 8-0 with the point after.

The visitors went two-and-out again in their next drive, with punter Bailey Flint booting it 61 yards in the air to push the Argos all the way back to their own 16-yard line. Former Argos defender Chris Edwards then sacked Kelly on second down to push the home team further back and give his team great field position after the punt was returned to plus territory.

Hamilton’s offence took advantage as Mitchell found receiver Kiondré Smith on a crossing route to move the ball to Toronto’s 30-yard line. The veteran then found running back James Butler coming out of the backfield for another 17 yards before the rusher punched it in himself to cut into the lead. A two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as Toronto’s D-line stuffed Butler to keep the lead, 8-6.

Wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. opened the next drive for the boatmen with a long catch down the left sideline on a comeback concept. The next play had Daniels with a first-down catch over the middle followed by a trio of runs by Ouellette that moved the ball all the way to Hamilton’s 32. Kelly then connected with Coxie to make it first-and goal from the 10. A sack by Mohamed Diallo on second down seemed to be the end of it until a facemask call on Hamilton’s defensive lineman moved the chains. Kelly capped off the drive by rushing for his second score of the game on third down to make it 15-6.

Receiver Terry Godwin II made a one-handed catch to get the Black and Gold offence going in the next drive and Mitchell threaded the needle to Williams to put Hamilton in scoring position with less than three minutes to go in the half. Defensive back DaShaun Amos put a stop to the drive though with another interception inside the end zone for the Argos secondary.

Kelly immediately went deep after the turnover for a 59-yard bomb to Coxie. Toronto’s new starter then found No. 86 again to move the chains once more before Ouellette pushed the pile to the one-yard line. Toronto’s pivot then went for his third rushing score of the evening to extend the lead to 22-6 going into halftime.

The Argos quarterback finished the half with 185 passing yards on 9-of-14 and three scores rushing scores, connecting with Coxie five times for 129 yards.

Defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade got his first sack with the Double Blue as both teams traded punts through most of the third quarter.

It seemed as if Hamilton would put together a long drive but a big tackle from defensive back Tarvarus McFadden on receiver Tim White for a loss of yardage ended the Black and Gold’s possession.

The stalemate continued into the fourth quarter, as both defences forced teams to punt back and forth. Not even a long pass interference call on a Kelly pass to his favourite target Coxie that moved the ball into plus territory was enough to add points to the board as the Argos quickly punted after two plays.

Mitchell was tackled by linebacker Wynton McManis on a pass attempt and gingerly walked to the sidelines as Shiltz took over at quarterback. The backup was sacked in back-to-back plays as Toronto forced yet another punt.

It was only after Leake gave the Argos good field position with a punt return that the first scoring drive of the second half came to be. Ouellette rushed through Black and Gold defenders and Kelly found Gittens Jr. over the middle to set up first-and-goal. From there it was Harris getting his first major of the season with a run through the middle, 29-6.

Shiltz put together a long drive of his own late in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a connection with Williams over the middle that moved the ball all the way to Toronto’s 35-yard line. Hamilton’s pivot then converted a third-and-one before finding White in between three defenders for another first down. A Ternowski acrobatic catch over the right sideline – coupled with another catch by No. 88 on a two-point conversion – closed out the drive for the visitors to cut into the lead, 29-14.

The Argos put together another scoring drive with under two minutes to go, setting up Bede to extend the lead to 32-14 and end the game for the current champions.

The Ticats return home in Week 3 to host the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, while the Argos travel to Edmonton to face the Elks on Sunday.

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