TORONTO – A week after clinching a home playoff date, the Argonauts locked up their first East Division title since 2007 on Thursday night, as they defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 36-21 at Rogers Centre.
The victory puts the Argonauts instantly within one game of being in the 101st Grey Cup, which takes place on Sunday, November 24 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
The Argos’ 11 wins this season match the team’s highest win total since 1997. Of the 11 victories, a league-best seven have come while away from the comfy confines of the Rogers Centre.
The Argonauts opened the scoring on Thursday night as Ricky Ray engineered an impressive nine-play, 90-yard drive capped off by Romby Bryant’s 31-yard touchdown reception, giving the Argos a 7-0 lead early on.
The touchdown was Bryant’s first since joining the Argonauts as the veteran receiver tallied a pair of touchdowns on the night.
On the ensuing Blue Bombers offensive possession, Argonauts linebacker Robert McCune exited the game with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. McCune collided with teammate Jermaine Gabriel as both men attempted to knockdown Max Hall’s intended pass.
Fortunately for the Double Blue, McCune returned to the game shortly thereafter.
The Argonauts extended their lead as Swayze Waters connected on a 36-yard field goal, capping a five-play, 32-yard drive.
Looking to respond after falling behind early on, the Blue Bombers, with the benefit of a pair of Argonauts penalties (pass interference and facemask), marched deep into Toronto territory before punching it into the end zone as Max Hall connected with Wallace Miles for his first career CFL touchdown reception.
However, prior to the touchdown, Argonauts defensive back Neiko Thorpe was carted off the football field after attempting to make a tackle on Blue Bombers running back Will Ford. The Argos’ rookie remained down on the turf for several minutes as trainers removed his jersey and shoulder pads before loading him onto a stretcher.
He was immediately taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, Swayze Waters converted his second field goal attempt of the night, this time from 40 yards out, extending the Argos’ lead to 13-7.
The Blue Bombers responded with a scoring drive of their own as Sandro DeAngelis capped a nine-play, 49-yard drive with a 47-yard field goal, cutting Winnipeg’s deficit to 13-10 with less than nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
On the following drive, Ricky Ray went back to work, orchestrating a methodical eight-play, 76-yard drive capped off by Romby Bryant’s second touchdown reception of the first half, extending Toronto’s lead to 20-10.
The Argos’ veteran receiver concluded the game with seven receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Swayze Waters’ ensuing kickoff bounced into the end zone, resulting in a single-point, putting the Argonauts ahead 21-10 with just over four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Nearing the conclusion of the first half, Max Hall engineered a seven-play, 61-yard drive capped off by Rory Kohlert’s seven-yard touchdown reception, cutting the Bombers’ deficit to 21-17 heading into halftime.
Looking to pad their lead early in the second half, Ricky Ray led the Argonauts offence deep into Winnipeg territory. However, the impressive drive stalled as slotback Jason Barnes coughed up the football at the Bombers’ four-yard line. A scrum ensued and ultimately, Bombers linebacker Pierre-Luc Labbe emerged with possession of the football.
With a six-yard completion to slotback Chad Owens at 7:50 of the third quarter, Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray set a new franchise record for consecutive completions with 19.
Ray went on to complete an additional two passes, falling just one completion shy of tying Jason Maas’ single-game CFL record of 22 consecutive completions set in 2008 as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos.
After his completion streak ended with an incompletion to running back Chad Kackert, Swayze Waters went on to convert a 48-yard field goal, extending the Argos’ lead to 24-17.
The Double Blue continued to add to their lead as Swayze Waters capped a five-play, 44-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal, his fourth conversion of the night, giving Toronto a 27-17 lead late in the third quarter.
The Blue Bombers responded with a scoring drive of their own as Sandro DeAngelis connected on his third field goal of the game, this time splitting the uprights from 17 yards out, reducing Winnipeg’s deficit to 27-20.
The Bombers continued to chip away at the Argos’ lead as Mike Renauld’s 68-yard punt rolled through the back of the end zone, resulting in a single-point, cutting Toronto’s lead to 27-21.
The drive accumulated 55 yards in eleven plays and took over five minutes off of the game clock.
Looking to slow down the Argonauts’ potent offence, Ian Wild delivered a big play right when the Blue Bombers needed it most. Andre Durie took Ricky Ray’s short shuffle pass 28 yards deep into Winnipeg territory prior to fumbling the football, as Wild jarred the ball loose while Johnny Sears secured possession for the Blue Bombers.
Pinned at their own one-yard line, Winnipeg elected to concede a safety, extending Toronto’s lead to 29-21.
Prior to the safety, Blue Bombers quarterback Max Hall exited the game after enduring a hard tackle from Argonauts linebacker Marcus Ball, who was also shaken up on the play.
On the ensuing Argonauts offensive possession, Ricky Ray put the game out of reach as he delivered a strike to Dontrelle Inman who marched 69 yards into the end zone, giving Toronto a 36-21 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bombers then turned the football over on downs, allowing the Argonauts to run down the game clock.
On the Bombers’ next possession, Jamie Robinson intercepted Winnipeg quarterback Jason Boltus, securing the victory for the Double Blue.
Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray concluded the game 39-for-45 with 505 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The 505 yards passing marked the first time in his illustrious 11-year CFL career that Ray has thrown for over 500 yards.