T.J. Heath had two interceptions and Logan Kilgore threw a touchdown pass to Vidal Hazelton, leading the Argos to a 25-16 win over the rival Ticats in their pre-season opener at BMO Field. 16,168
The 16,168 announced fans in attendance couldn’t have asked for better weather for the team’s first game at BMO, as Double Blue supporters tailgated outside before enjoying an efficient showing from Kilgore and a second-half comeback win over a hated rival.
Kilgore threw for 107 yards on 8-of-13 passing for a touchdown and no interceptions, helping his bid for the backup quarterback position, while Mitchell Gale’s perfect 6-for-6 drive in the fourth quarter capped off by a Wallace Miles touchdown grab put the game away with 2:50 remaining.
Ticats starter Jeremiah Masoli was efficient but failed to get the Ticats on the board in his two first-quarter possessions, and on the other hand Jeff Mathews showed some good and some bad in throwing for 176 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-14 passing but also throwing two interceptions.
Brett Maher was a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals for the Ticats while Cody Mandell was 1-for-2 but hit a 50-yarder.
Ricky Ray played entered for the Argos in the second quarter but failed to pick up a first down on two possessions while completing one of three passing attempts.
Kilgore got the chance to go first in the Argo offence and didn’t disappoint, completing seven of his first eight passes as the Argos stormed out to a 10-0 lead.
The 26-year-old Middle Tennessee State product looked comfortable in the pocket and confident in his arm early on, finding an open Kenny Shaw to the 50 then on a second down play threading the needle to Hazelton for a first down into Ticats’ territory.
Fighting for the second spot on the Argos’ depth chart this pre-season, Kilgore twice moved the chains on third and short and three times converted lengthy second-down plays, including a pass in the end zone to a wide open Hazelton on second and 13.
The 17-yard score gave the Argos a 7-0 lead, capping off a 15-play drive that took 8:21 off the clock.
The lead got to 10-0 on a 37-yard field goal by newcomer Lirim Hajrullahu, while the Ticats would punt once more before ending the first quarter down by a touchdown and a three-pointer.
After a strong two possessions for Kilgore, the Argos turned their offence over to Ray, but the veteran in his first full season back from shoulder surgery failed to get any momentum. The Argos went two-and-out twice with Ray on the field while Ray went 1-for-3 before letting rookie pivot Cody Fajardo take over.
In one of the biggest roster competitions to watch throughout training camp, the Ticats ended Masoli’s day early in the second quarter and made the switch to 24-year-old Mathews. And after Masoli failed to generate any scoring on 6-of-9 passing, Mathews provided the Ticat offence the spark it needed.
His second passing attempt of the game was a 50-yard strike to a wide open Tiquan Underwood behind the Argos’ secondary, cutting the deficit to 10-7 and giving Mathews a nice step in front on the quarterback competition with 10:35 left in the first half.
Mathews and the ‘Cats looked to strike again shortly after, but after a 51-yard completion to Matt Coates deep in Argos territory he was intercepted by Heath on a second down play near the goal line.
Despite a return on the interception by Heath up to the Argo 39, the Ticat defence contained Fajardo, flipping the field and setting up a pair of field goals by Brett Maher from 35 and 37 to give the Ticats the lead at halftime, 13-10.
While Maher got off to a strong start in the duel to become the Ticats’ placekicker with a 2-for-2 effort, international Mandell had a chance to make a big impression himself early in the second half but pulled his 50-yard try wide left.
One of the CFL’s most unique plays helped the Argos draw even shortly after. With the offence sputtering and Zack Medeiros punting, the Ticats looked to draw a no yards penalty but were caught watching as Medeiros recovered his own kick to give the Argos possession near midfield.
The short field resulted in Medeiros’ first field goal of the game from 27 yards to make it a 13-13 game just shy of the midway mark of the third quarter.
A 51-yard field goal from Mandell and an Argos safety following a Medeiros miss from 47 made it 16-15 Ticats heading to the fourth, but the Argos would took their first lead since the first half not long after on a field goal by Medeiros set up by a catch from rookie receiver Llevi Noel.
The loudest BMO Field would get all day came shortly after, when the Argos appeared to extend their lead on a defensive touchdown off an interception by Jake Waters. The play was called back on an Argos off-side, but the Argo defence held up and got the ball back for the Argos’ fourth quarterback, Mitchell Gale, to take over.
Gale, a former Ticat and Argo just signed by the Argos on Saturday, led a perfect 6-for-6 drive capped off by a touchdown to Wallace to put the Argos out in front for good, 25-16.
The Boatmen are back in action on June 17 with a trip to Montreal, while the Ticats close their pre-season slate with a home date against the REDBLACKS, also on June 17. Then these East Division rivals will do it all again, this time for real, on June 23 in the season-opener at BMO Field.