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Argos clinch first in East with 24-23 win over Alouettes

MONTREAL — A single point following a missed field goal was enough to give the Toronto Argonauts a 24-23 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday in CFL action at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Trevor Harris, bottom, is brought down by Toronto Argonauts' Sam Acheampong (96) during first half CFL football action in Montreal, Saturday, October 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — A single point following a missed field goal was enough to give the Toronto Argonauts a 24-23 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday in CFL action at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

The result means the Argonauts have clinched first place in the East Division and home field advantage in the playoffs.

“Now we can get healthy. We needed that bye and get some guys back,” said Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “We wanted to win the East obviously, but it was essential to get it done this week and not wait until next week.”

Toronto’s (11-6) McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns and had one interception.

Trevor Harris led Montreal (8-9) with 413 passing yards and two touchdowns in the tough loss.

The Alouettes found lots of success through the air on their opening drive, gaining 52 yards in only three plays and finding themselves on the Toronto 15 yard-line.

All the progress would be undone when Montreal gambled on third down. They turned the ball over when Harris’s pass was intercepted by Jonathan Jones.

After a Toronto three-and-out, Montreal found themselves once again in a third down situation but were a yard away from the end zone this time. They again elected to go for it and came up empty for the second time in as many red zone drives.

“I don’t have any regrets about making those calls,” said Alouettes head coach Danny Maciocia. “Kicking a field goal on the one-yard line in the first quarter, I’m not going to do that.”

Starting at their own one-yard line, the Argonauts proceeded to march down the field, covering 109 yards in just seven plays.

They would cap it off by scoring the first touchdown of the game with just over four minutes remaining in the opening quarter. Bethel-Thompson found Markeith Ambles from two yards out.

With just under four minutes left in the half, Montreal finally got their first points on the board. A 50-yard catch and run from Jake Wieneke set up a 42-yard field goal by David Côté, making the score 7-3 at halftime.

Toronto started the second half by returning the opening kickoff 59 yards and then capitalizing on weak coverage in Montreal’s secondary to score their second touchdown of the game.

Kurleigh Gittens Jr. lost his marker after receiving a pass at the 13-yard line and strolled into the end zone. Montreal responded right away with another Côté field goal from 26 yards out.

“We had some good stuff (in the first half) but just couldn’t finish. We made adjustments at halftime, and I felt good about how we were playing towards the end,” said Dinwiddie. “(Montreal) did a good job, they had a lot of different coverages we hadn’t seen yet.”

After trading unsuccessful possessions, Montreal found the end zone for the first time in the game. After working their way down to Toronto’s 12-yard line, Harris spotted an open Wieneke who waltzed in for the touchdown, cutting the deficit to three.

Just one play later, Bethel-Thompson’s ill-advised bomb downfield found the waiting arms of Marc-Antoine Dequoy, giving the Alouettes’ offence new life.

The possession would give Côté his third field goal of the game, tying the game 16-16 after converting from 47 yards.

On the ensuing drive, a series of penalties brought Toronto to the Montreal one-yard line. Chad Kelly made no mistake as the quarterback snuck the ball in, allowing the Alouettes to tie the game.

As Montreal marched down the field Harris came alive, finding receivers every time he dropped back. They completed the comeback when Eugene Lewis’s diving catch tied things up.

With 34 seconds on the clock, Toronto now had the crucial task of getting downfield and setting up a game-winning field-goal attempt for Boris Bede.

“We believed in each other, coach made some good play calls, and we executed,” said Gittens. “That’s all you can ask for and now we have that weight off our shoulders.”

While Bede missed the kick, the single point was enough to give the Argonauts the win with no time left on the clock.

The second leg of the home-and-home will take place on Oct. 29 at BMO Field.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2022. 

Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press