Argonauts come in big to topple Als for Gray Cup berth

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From start to finish on Sunday, the Toronto Argonauts were good – and sometimes just good enough when adversity hit – stepping up big plays in key moments to outlast the Montreal Alouettes 34-27 in the 2016 Final. East and book their ticket to the 109th Gray Cup Game next weekend in Regina.

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This will be the Boatmen’s first appearance in the championship game since 2017 and they will face the winner of the West Final between the BC Lions and the two-time defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers to be played later. sunday.

BMO Field wasn’t crowded, but it was buzzing with football as the Argos rewarded the faithful with a solid, if not spectacular, win in which both teams racked up more than 900 yards of offense.

Not much bad could be said about a performance by Argos that had more running moments and poise than missteps.

Sure, they nearly let a 21-3 lead slip away from them in the second half, but each time Montreal showed signs of recovery, the Argos responded, twice responding to the Als scoring plays with their own. in the second half, including a 31-yard TD strike to Kurleigh Gittens Jr., in the final minute of the third quarter just after the visitors went 27-24 with a field goal from David Cote.

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“It was a team win and our defense did it in the fourth quarter,” said head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, adding it was his offense’s best showing in two years. where he oversaw the unit.

Overall, the Argos played their best football of the season, especially late in the game. But they will have to be even better in Regina.

“It’s just one more step in the direction we want to go,” said quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who has now played back-to-back Eastern Finals without throwing an interception and won his first career post-season victory.

“We think we can still improve,” said veteran center linebacker Henoc Muamba, who will be playing in the Gray Cup for the first time since his rookie season in 2011 while playing in Winnipeg. “It’s important to be here, but it’s not the price.”

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The best player on the field, without a doubt, was Alouettes quarterback Trevor Harris, who threw just five misses in 30 attempts for 368 yards and a touchdown.

MBT wasn’t too bad – throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns – but his day featured too many knockdowns as well as a bench area collapse with Dinwiddie on an unthrown challenge flag.

For a change, however, the Boatmen’s running game played a prominent role, especially in the final minutes. A Cote basket with 4:25 to go cut Toronto’s lead to 34-27 – one game to one possession. But the Alouettes’ offense will never get their hands on the ball again as the Argos, behind the 1-2 punch of Andrew Harris and AJ Ouellette, have run 12 straight plays to kill the clock.

Harris returned after surgery to repair a torn pectoral he suffered midway through the season and scored his first major on the floor as an Argo on a six-yard run down the middle.

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“Finally, finally,” Harris said of the game-opening touchdown. “The O line did a hell of a job. It was amazing to feel the energy of the team when I went through the bench area.

Ouellette scored Toronto’s second major in the first quarter on a seven-yard pass, again on a field goal by the Als.

For the Argos, Harris will now be aiming for his third straight championship. Wide receiver Brandon Banks, meanwhile, will get a shot at finally winning a Gray Cup after three big-game losses while playing in Hamilton. And his former Ticats teammate, point guard Ja’Gared Davis, will be playing in his sixth title game in his sixth season.

“It’s 6 for 6, but we have to finish it for him,” Harris said.

A CRUEL LOSS

That wasn’t exactly what star linebacker Wynton McManis envisioned when he returned for this game after a knee injury sidelined him for the final four games of the regular season.

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McManis said he felt good heading into the Eastern Finals and was confident he would return to his star form.

But the feel-good story ended abruptly in the first half when McManis left the game with a suspected torn bicep and is questionable for the Gray Cup game.

“It’s been kind of our year,” Dinwiddie said. “Unfortunately we had injuries to some very good players. I feel for Wynton. I know he wants to play next Sunday.

“If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be sitting here. We have to find a way to win without him and that’s how it is.

Football is a cruel sport and McManis has become the latest victim.

“I’m crazy,” said Muamba, who lines up next to McManis. “You know he’s going to do everything he can to play next week. If he can’t, we know he’ll be with us.

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Jonathan Jones, who replaced McManis’ weak secondary linebacker late in the season, did it again on Sunday.

ALS IS NOT WELL

The biggest mistake by far occurred when no one in the Alouettes’ defense bothered to cover wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who lined up on the field in a second-and-one situation. quarter.

The Argos had short-range QB Chad Kelly in the game, and when he broke huddle he noticed no Alouette was assigned to Davis. Kelly backed up and threw it to his wide-open receiver, who could have entered the end zone since no Alouettes defenseman was within 30 yards of him.

The catch-and-run covered 46 yards and gave Toronto a 21-3 lead.

Daniels finished the day with a team-best 108 yards.

Following his team’s loss, interim general manager/head coach Danny Maciocia said an injury before the pass forced the Alouettes to use a different group of personnel.

Daniels said the play call was, in fact, a pass, but he never thought of being left alone.
In a seven-point loss, the easy score ended up costing the Alouettes dearly.

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