Toronto Argonauts outlast REDBLACKS in four quarter battle

OTTAWA — The Toronto Argonauts earned their third consecutive victory and placed some separation between themselves and the rest of the East Division standings with their win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Saturday afternoon.

In a defensive battle that came down to the final minutes of action, the Argonauts held off the late attempts of the REDBLACKS to take a 24-19 win to kickoff the season’s first tripleheader.

Toronto quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 27 of his 39 passes for 365 yards and a touchdown as he helped his team secure their win over Ottawa.

Canadian receiver Kurliegh Gittens Jr. put on an a jaw-dropping performance in his team’s win over the East Division rival REDBLACKS. The Toronto playmaker reeled in a team-high eight of his 12 targets for 161 yards and the lone passing touchdowns for the Boatmen. The 161 yards from Gittens set a new career-high in receiving yards for the third year playmaker.

Damonte Coxie played a complimentary, but equally as important roll in the Toronto passing game, catching three passes for 66 yards including a 39-yard receptions to set up a score.

Argos running back A.J. Ouellette continued to find ways to contribute from multiple positions. Ouellette carried the ball 10 times for 29 yards and his first career rushing touchdown. Also contributing 26 receiving yards out of the backfield.

» Box Score: Argos, REDBLACKS by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Toronto at Ottawa
» Watch: Big play from Coxie leads to Argonauts touchdown
» Bethel-Thompson on Argos win: ‘We’re a dangerous team’

Bethel-Thompson and the Boatmen offence looked to be prioritizing downfield passing to start the game, but the Ottawa defence certainly appeared ready for the aerial attack of the Boatmen.

The REDBLACKS forced an incompletion on a second and long to halt Toronto’s first offensive possession, but the Argos would still manage points with a long range field goal attempt. Argos’ kicker Boris Bede made the 51-yard attempt look effortless as he split the uprights for the 200th made field goal of his career, giving his team an early lead three-point lead.

Nearing the end of the first quarter Toronto had an opportunity to extend their lead of the East Division opponents. With their first play of a new drive, Bethel-Thompson delivered a strike to Gittens for a 19-yard catch and run.

Bethel-Thompson went right back to the air as he found Coxie downfield for an electrifying 39-yard gain, putting his team well within striking distance of the Ottawa end zone. Standing on the Ottawa two-yard, the Boatmen opted to go to the ground as Ouellette bullied his way through the Ottawa defence for the first rushing touchdown of his career. Helping Toronto take a 10-0 lead to end the first quarter.

With their second offensive possession of the new quarter, the Argonauts again looked as though they wanted to place an emphasis on picking up yardage through the air. However, Ottawa defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin muscled his way into the Toronto backfield for his league-leading 11th sack of the season, helping force a two and out from the Boatmen offence.

Following the Mauldin sack, Ottawa found themselves in good field position, starting their drive from the Toronto 52-yard line. Arbuckle dropped back to pass, looking for Jaelon Acklin for the first time in the game, but Toronto defensive back Maurice Carnell made a great defensive play as he broke on the pass for the interception.

The interception from Carnell appeared to spark momentum within the Argonauts offensive unit. Facing a second down and 10, Bethel-Thompson loaded up and a took a shot deep downfield as the high-arcing pass found it’s way back into the hands of Toronto’s Gittens for a 45-yard gain.

Toronto would not be able to find the end zone following the big-play from Gittens, but they would still manage to score the first set of points in the game’s second quarter. The Argos called on Bede for a second time in the first half and the veteran kicker delivered as he converted the 17-yard field goal, giving his team a 13-0 lead.

Ottawa would find their points of the game late in the first half of action, REDBLACKS kicker Lewis Ward was called upon to attempt his first kick of the game and demonstrated exactly why he is considered one of the best in the East. Splitting the uprights with a 48-yard field goal attempt.

Ward wasn’t done with the first half quite yet, with under 30 seconds remaining the veteran kicker again showed off his range, converting on a 47-yard attempts giving the Ottawa offence points in consecutive drives before the end of the half, cutting the Toronto lead to one-score.

The strong defensive showing continued as the second half of action resumed. Ottawa forced the Argonauts off the field in just three plays to open the third quarter of action. Toronto again called on Bede in search of points, and the Argonauts kicker again delivered as he converted a 47-yard attempt.

Ottawa would match the score from the Boatmen with their opening possession of the game’s first half. Arbuckle completed a six-yard pass to Acklin on a second down, but the REDBLACKS were left a few yards short of a first down, forcing them to settle for a field goal.

Ward helped his team find points on a third consecutive drive as he delivered a 35-yard strike as the REDBLACKS brought the Toronto lead back down to just one-score.

Midway through the third quarter of action the Argonauts looked as if they may score again. Bethel-Thompson strung together an methodical six-play drive that was halted by a sack from Ottawa defensive back Patrick Levels.

Toronto was forced to settle for a field goal as they called on Bede for the fifth time of the afternoon. Bede lined up the kick and appeared to have the distance, but missed a 46-yard attempt wide right. The kick sailed 59-yards in distance, enough to give his team a single.

With an opportunity to cut further into the Toronto lead following the missed field goal, Ottawa found exactly what they had been looking for as Arbuckle completed a 43-yard strike to Darvin Adams for their biggest play of the game.

However, the Boatmen defence held strong and pushed Ottawa backwards for negative yardage on the ensuing two plays, again forcing Ottawa to settle for a field goal. Ward, who had seemingly been automatic throughout the afternoon, careened the 35-yard attempt off the upright for his first miss of the game.


Nearing the end of the game’s third quarter the Argonauts would find the end zone for the first time since the game’s first quarter. Bethel-Thompson led a six-play scoring drive that was highlighted by five consecutive completions from the Boatmen pivot.

On the sixth play of the drive he found Gittens for tough 12-yard catch and run as the Argo pass-catcher muscled his way into the end zone for his third touchdown reception of the year, giving Toronto a 24-9 lead to end the quarter.

Arbuckle and the Ottawa offence remained stoic in the face of the two-score advantage the Argonauts had managed. The REDBLACKS pivot engineered an eight-play 72-yard drive for his team as he completed six straight passes to give his team an opportunity to score.

With the ball on the Toronto two-yard line, Ottawa turned to quarterback Caleb Evans to convert the short-yardage score. Evans used all of his six-foot-two frame has he surged forward and for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season, pulling Ottawa back to within one-score.

The patience and resiliency of the REDBLACKS paid dividends even after the score from their offence.

Bethel-Thompson dropped back into the pocket looking to put the ball in the air with Toronto’s first possession of the final quarter. The Toronto quarterback tried to fit the ball between the harsh-marks and numbers, but Ottawa defensive back Damon Webb jumped in front of the pass for a potential momentum-shifting play and his first career-interception.

The Boatmen defence would limit the damage following the interception from their quarterback, but Ottawa would still manage to chip away at the Toronto lead. Ward made good on his earlier miss as he converted a 31-yard attempt to bring his team within five points nearing the midway mark of the final quarter.

The REDBLACKS offence would take the field nearing the three-minute warning, chomping at the heels of Toronto’s 24-19 lead. Ottawa running back Devonte Williams strung together three hard runs for 19 yards to help the drive find it’s legs. Arbuckle then found receiver Ryan Davis for a 22-yard completion to help extend the drive.

On the 10th play of the drive facing a second down, Arbuckle was forced to throw the ball away as the Argonauts defence was finally able to force an error from the REDBLACKS offence on the drive.

Ottawa kept their offence on the field for third down, needing 14 yards to convert. Arbuckle was flushed out of the pocket and forced to try to make a play with his leg, after an initial burst of speed from the Ottawa pivot he would be brought down short of the first down and Ottawa gave up possession on downs with under two-minutes to play.

The REDBLACKS defence would force a much-needed punt after two huge defensive plays to keep the Argonauts passing attack at bay. The play from their defensive unit and a nice return from Davis gave the Ottawa offence field position from the Toronto 35-yard line with one more chance to complete the comeback.

The Boatmen defence would hold off the final efforts from Arbuckle and the REDBLACKS passing attack, forcing an incompletion on a pass to Acklin before finding Williams in the backfield for a loss of four. ‘

On third down and 14 Arbuckle heaved a pass downfield intended for Shaq Johnson, but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf as the Argonauts took a road win over the REDBLACKS to kickoff Saturday’s tripleheader.

Looking ahead to Week 15 both the REDBLACKS and Argonauts will earn some much deserved rest after the clash in the nation’s capital. Both teams will enter a bye week, before a rematch of Saturday’s contest from TD Place in Week 16.

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