TORONTO – A sellout crowd of 5,216 spectators packed their way into historic Varsity Stadium on Thursday night for the Toronto Argonauts’ pre-season finale.
The Boatmen concluded exhibition play with a convincing 41-23 victory over their provincial rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
With just one week remaining until the official kickoff of the 2014 CFL regular season, Thursday’s game served as a final dress rehearsal for both Eastern Division squads.
For Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin, Thursday’s pre-season game offered another opportunity to nurture along third-year signal caller and former Argonaut, Zach Collaros. In two quarters of action, the 25-year-old Steubenville, Ohio native connected on 13 of 18 pass attempts for 196 yards and one touchdown. The Tabbies’ newly minted starter also showcased his terrific mobility as he registered 22 yards along the ground. Collaros’ lone touchdown pass of the game came late in the opening half as he connected with wideout Luke Tasker for a three-yard score.
As for Collaros’ counterpart, Ricky Ray enjoyed a stellar 2014 debut. The 34-year-old Californian completed seven of nine pass attempts for 90 yards and one touchdown. Chad Owens was on the receiving end of Ray’s touchdown strike. The major score gave the Argonauts an early 7-3 lead.
Thursday night’s exhibition game under the lights at Varsity Stadium also presented an opportunity for Argonauts defensive coordinator Tim Burke to tinker with his starting secondary. The Boatmen have just four defensive backs returning from last year’s squad, two of whom who are entering their sophomore seasons in the Canadian Football League.
The Argonauts’ new-look secondary showed plenty of promise as they limited the Tiger-Cats to just 245 yards passing and one offensive score. In addition to a strong outing on the defensive side of the football, second-year safety Jermaine Gabriel made his presence felt on special teams as he recorded his first-career CFL touchdown.
The Tiger-Cats remained within striking distance for a majority of the first half courtesy of kicker Justin Medlock, who connected on a pair field goals (39 and 25 yards). The former Argo concluded the game three-for-three on field goal attempts, accounting for 11 of Hamilton’s 23 points.
The Argonauts opened up a sizeable 22-point lead in the third quarter as both Darvin Adams and Jeremiah Johnson found the endzone for the Boatmen.
With less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Tiger-Cats linebacker Abraham Kromah intercepted Argonauts rookie quarterback Casey Pachall and ensued to return it 17 yards for a touchdown, cutting Hamilton’s deficit to 35-23.
Josh Jasper added a pair of late field goals, preserving the victory for the Double Blue.
For a second consecutive year, the Argonauts conclude the pre-season with an undefeated 2-0 record. The Boatmen will open their 2014 regular season schedule next Thursday at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.