Halifax party is blue-tie

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:31 PM ET

HALIFAX -- It was a Grey Cup-like event wrapped in a game that went right down to the end.

The Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats played to a 16-16 tie last night in a pre-season game at Huskies Stadium as part of the Canadian Football League's plan to potentially put a franchise in Atlantic Canada some time this decade.

Temporary seating tripled the stadium's capacity, permitting an announced crowd of 11,148 to gather.

"The entire community has embraced this game like a mini-Grey Cup and it kind of was," CFL commissioner Tom Wright said. "I was down at the festival three hours before the game and it was packed. I think there were more Hamilton Tiger-Cat fans than Toronto Argonaut fans. There were actually a whole bunch of Calgary Stampeders fans unbelievably. Every person, almost to the man or the woman, came up and said, 'We'd love to have a team here.'

"I understand that, but it's a lot of hard work to see if that happens. You've got to get a stadium ... We've got government at all sorts of levels to convince. We have to find the right ownership. We've got to engage the corporate community, but the way I looked at it, it was a great number (of people who attended the game). They stayed right to the end. Nobody left until it was over. They were well-entertained and I think they really responded nicely."

Argos head coach Pinball Clemons said the people demonstrated energy and enthusiasm.

"The atmosphere was so much fun to be around," he said. "They were really into it. Whether it was out on the field or going back and forth on and off the field, in or around the city, people were talking about it."

Hamilton head coach Greg Marshall said the atmosphere was like a home game for both teams. "It was quite unique," he said. "It was all pretty positive."

The Argos defence showed it is still the strength of the team, picking off five passes, including three off Hamilton starter Danny McManus. Backup quarterback Marcus Brady surrendered the other two interceptions. Cornerback Adrion Smith led the Argos with two interceptions. Fellow starting cornerback Jordan Younger returned an interception for a 41-yard touchdown. Return specialist Bashir Levingston and rookie Greg Golden had the other interceptions.

Kicker Noel Prefontaine had two field goals, while backup kicker Chris Hardy nailed one of two.

Damon Allen started at quarterback, followed by Scott Covington and Charlie Peterson.

The Argos led 13-0 before Hamilton scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, aided by a Toronto penalty, but the convert failed. The Argos led 16-6 in the fourth quarter, but Hamilton scored a controversial touchdown midway in the quarter and tied it up on a 15-yard field goal at 14:58.


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