In the final Labour Day Classic at Hamilton’s venerable Ivor Wynne Stadium, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats thrilled the crowd with a record-setting performance from their other-worldly punt returner. The Toronto Argonauts decided to march into Steeltown and give the Tiger-Cats aging stadium a proper sendoff by drenching it in silence.
The Argos overcame some mid-game bumps to stun the rowdy Hamilton crowd and grab a 33-30 win in one of the most intense Labour Day Classic games the CFL has seen in a few years. After a back-and-forth final quarter, Swayze Waters booted a 33-yard field goal, his second of the contest, with just 26 seconds remaining to put the Boatmen in front for good. It was a thrilling end to a wild and fun CFL contest, which finished as yet another classic chapter of the historic Argos-Tabbies rivalry.
For the most part, the Argonauts turned this contest into an episode of the Ray-Owens show, with both parties connecting for several key plays to lead the Argonauts into the win column. After a rough game against Edmonton last Monday, quarterback Ricky Ray played like a man possessed. In his first Labour Day Classic contest for the Argos, Ray had a game to remember, throwing for 375 yards and a touchdown. His veteran poise was evident throughout the fourth quarter, bringing the Argos back from a 22-11 deficit with a pair of brilliant drives in the final frame.
Chad Owens also started slowly, fumbling a kickoff early in the game. But he rebounded to post 402 all-purpose yards on the day, and was Ray’s main receiving target during the fourth-quarter comeback. Owens made a spectacular one-handed catch at midfield late in the final drive to help set up the winning field goal. He also caught a touchdown on a wonderful pass from Ray for the game’s opening score.
In the deciding fourth quarter, Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris looked over-matched at times. After a Chad Kackert touchdown brought the Argos to within two, Burris was promptly picked off by Ahmad Carroll, who gave the Argos the lead on the pick-six. Burris threw for two touchdowns, including an important major late in the fourth quarter to keep Hamilton alive, but he also had two interceptions and only recorded 218 passing yards on the afternoon.
The Tiger-Cats did take advantage of their time on special teams, allowing punt returner Chris Williams to set a CFL record. Williams returned a punt 82 yards for the major in the first quarter for his sixth punt return touchdown of the season, setting a new single-season CFL record just halfway into the season. In the end, however, the brilliance Williams mattered little for Hamilton today, as the Tabbies star was rendered mute beyond his record-setting punt return. Keeping Williams out of the action for much of this game was crucial to the Argonauts leaving Hamilton with this victory.
Heading into the rematch at Rogers Centre this Saturday, the Tiger-Cats have a lot to be worried about. The veteran poise shown by Ricky Ray in the fourth quarter will likely stick in the minds of the Cats, who also have to worry about their own veteran signal caller who has been inconsistent this season. Hamilton will take a four-game losing streak down the QEW this weekend, and will do that knowing they could very well have taken the win on this Labour Day. The Argonauts will try to build on this key road win behind their rowdy home crowd on the weekend.