Lions get past Argos

Argonauts receiver Chad Owens takes a tumble against the Lions at the Rogers Centre on Monday. (QMI...

Argonauts receiver Chad Owens takes a tumble against the Lions at the Rogers Centre on Monday. (QMI Agency)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:26 PM ET

TORONTO - The Argonauts may not yet be able to beat the Grey Cup champions but they proved last night they belong on the same field.

It’s been a long time since a Toronto team could say that.

Since 2006 Toronto had a 34-7 record when it won the turnover battle; 4-55 when they didn’t. When the B. C. Lions turned two turnovers into 10 points in the first quarter it proved too big hill to climb on a night when offence came at a premium as they beat the Argonauts 18-9.

The Lions intercepted Ricky Ray three times and they recovered a fumble.

Curiously, on a night when defence ruled, it was a play not made that proved the turning point.

Trailing 11-9, the Argos mounted a terrific goal-line stand, three times stopping the Lions from the one. They stuffed Andrew Harris at the goal line. It looked like Ricky Foley had stripped the ball.

Officials ruled the play dead.

Soon, the Argos would be, too.

On a third and one the Argos defence stopped Harris again but linebacker Marcus Ball was called for offside. And, on their fourth attempt, Mike Riley broke through to put B.C. up 18-9.

Ricky Ray’s fumble with 6:26 to play seemed — after a valiant effort — to take the fight out of the Argos.

The second half started just as awfully as the first for Toronto’s offence with a third and 26 punting situation as Ray was sacked for a third time.

But there was nowhere to run. For either side. Etienne Boulay’s open-field tackle forced B.C. into a two and out.

Toronto did put together a nice 33-yard drive — Owens screaming and gesticulating after an 18-yard gain. Ray took them to the Lions 19 only to see Adam Bighill and Khareem Smith combine on B.C.’s fourth sack.

As the defences dominated, Waters third field goal inched Toronto within 11-9.

Unlike the Lions, the Argos’ defence wasn’t getting sacks, but it got plenty of pressure with Ejiro Kuale and Kevin Huntley consistently in the mix.

Toronto trailed 11-6 at the half. Real estate came at a premium with Ray completing 11 of 16 for 79 yards with two interceptions. Lulay had 91 yards on 11 of 17.

Toronto held Andrew Harris to just four yards. B.C. managed 128 yards of offence. Toronto had just 106.

This was smash-mouth football.

Ray was under constant pressure in a first half that saw the Argos fail to hit the scoreboard until Swayze Waters hit a 35-yard field goal with two minutes to play.

The Lions were having their own offensive issues, Toronto often flushing Lulay from the pocket. Even when he completed passes the damage was limited with sure tackles from the secondary. A short punt fielded niftily by Matt Black and returned to the B.C. 23 set up Waters last second-field goal to cut B.C.’s lead to 11-6.

With a game featuring the two top defences in the league, it wasn’t surprising that turnovers set up the first two scores.

For the Argos, however, it was disappointing. Both came at their expense with their opening two series ending in disaster. Ray’s pass on the first play hit receiver Dontrelle Inman. He got hit by linebacker Dante Marsh, the ball popped loose and into the hands of James Yurichuk. Lulay took the ball on the 20 and turned the interception into a 7-0 lead when he hit Akeem Foster in the end zone.

On the next series Bighill intercepted a pass over the middle at the Toronto 19. The defence, however, limited damage to a field goal.

The Argonauts, with the second-ranked defence in the CFL, got some big plays trailing 10-0. Foley had tracked down a scrambling Lulay.

Then, after a fumble and interception let the Lions jumped into a lead, it came up with a couple huge plays. Evan McCullough rocked the ball loose on a hard hit. Ronald Flemons stuck a huge paw into the air to knock down a second-down Lulay pass. Brandon Isaac stuffed Andrew Harris on an inside run and Marcus Ball’s sure tackle forced another punt.

But in the end, the effort proved about one yard short.

THAT EMPTY FEELING

The Argos might be a better football team. The city may be host to the Grey Cup in November. And, for the first time in a quarter century the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats could be on a collision course to meet in the Eastern final.

But, attendance for Monday’s 5 p.m. start under a blue sky at sun-splashed Rogers Centre was announced at 22,841. Not bad, considering the club averaged 20,018 in 2011. Not great, considering the echo effect that still results in a stadium that seats more than twice this number.

So, while the Argos may be a better football team, so far they have not captured the imagination of the local sporting fan.

Of course, a lot of them could have been home watching our women’s soccer team being gutted, or the CTV’s 487th rerun of Usain Bolt. It’s 48 hours after. Hello!!!! Nothing’s changed, folks. He still won. And, the U.S. girls won. Again. So, nothing changed there either.

As for the Argos. Hey, they’re working on it.

THE HOMECOMING

Many of the folks who did show up weren’t cheering for Double Blue.

Lions receiver Foster had his own cheering section near a corner of the end zone. But he may need a pay hike. This turned out to be an expensive weekend because Foster is from Ajax and he was hitting up teammates for their comp tickets and trying to take care of an unusual number of family.

It didn’t take him long to make them happy, beating Jordan Younger in the end zone to snag the opening touchdown pass of the game.

He had relatives from Jamaica, Barbados and parts of the U.S. who came to town last week for the funeral of family matriarch, and Akeem’s grandmother, Ruby Brown.

“For a lot of them, they’ll be watching me play for the first time,” Foster said Friday, at Lions’ practice in Surrey. “It’s going to be a helluva group, especially when you add in my friends. It’s going to be an exciting game. It’s going to be an emotional game. I’ve definitely got to put it out there for Ruby.”

After catching the ball Foster ran to the stands and flipped the ball into the eager hands.

 


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