Argos clinch top spot in East Division with blowout win over Tiger-Cats
Stampeders earn playoff berth, eliminate Lions with 33-23 win
Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and the Toronto Argonauts will carry home-field advantage into the CFL playoffs.
Gittens, Antonio Pipkin and Chris Edwards scored touchdowns as Toronto defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-12 on a windy Friday night to cement top spot in the East Division. That secured the Argos (9-4) home-field advantage for the East Division final Dec. 5 and that's a big deal considering they're 6-0 at BMO Field this year.
"It's home, who doesn't like home," Gittens Jr. said. "For us it's a pleasure to play in front of our fans.
"We just try to come out every home game and put on a show for these guys, they deserve it. Every chance we get to play at home we expect to play well."
Toronto played before a season-high gathering of 10,851 Friday night that braved a steady wind throughout and rain in the opening half. The Argos gave them plenty to cheer about, earning a third straight win and finishing the regular season 3-1 versus archrival Hamilton (7-6).
WATCH | Argos hammer Ticats, secure top spot in East Division:
Toronto completes its regular season Tuesday night hosting the Edmonton Elks (2-9). The Argos will return 19 days later to face either Hamilton or the Montreal Alouettes for a berth in the Grey Cup game Dec. 12 at Tim Hortons Field.
Gittens registered seven receptions for 72 yards — both team-highs — as Toronto's offence held the ball for over 33 minutes. Starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson finished 26-of-34 passing for 250 yards with a TD and interception.
Gittens felt Friday's performance was the Toronto offence's most complete this season.
"I think we played as a whole as an offence," he said. "We really played together."
Argos rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie went a step further in assessing his team.
"This is [the] best performance we've had all year and I think it was just our focus," he said. "I felt good about this game going into it just because of the work week, guys were dialled in.
"We're not happy. We've got to be better but I thought it was a pretty solid outing by our guys."
Hamilton suffered its first loss in four games and finishes its regular season next Saturday hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-4). And that could be a monumental game for the Ticats depending on how third-place Montreal (6-6) fares against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-1) on Saturday.
Montreal completes its regular season next Friday by hosting the Ottawa Redblacks (2-11).
Hamilton and Montreal split their season series 1-1 but the Ticats own the tiebreaker based upon point differential. So they'd finish ahead of the Alouettes if the two teams ended up tied in the standings.
Dinwiddie wouldn't be surprised if Toronto faced Hamilton again in the playoffs.
"Well, they've been the best team in the East the last few years and I think there's a reason why," he said. "They're a darn good football team, so is Montreal [and] we'll see how that plays out.
"You never know in the playoffs but they're a darn good team ... so we're probably going to see them again."
Stampeders top Lions, clinch playoff spot
The Calgary Stampeders clinched a playoff spot with a 33-23 win over the B.C. Lions on Friday night.
The result also officially eliminated the lacklustre Lions (4-9) from playoff contention.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns for the Stampeders (7-6), connecting on 20 of 26 attempts. Calgary kicker Rene Paredes made two field goals, including a 44-yarder in the third quarter.
B.C.'s Michael Reilly had 340 passing yards and a touchdown as his side lost its seventh game in a row. Nick Vogel added three field goals for the hometown Lions, including a 39-yard strike, in his first-ever CFL game.
Lions fans began streaming to the exits with just over two minutes left in the game after Reilly was sacked for the second time in the game and Darnell Sakney recovered the fumble at the B.C. 46-yard line.
WATCH | Lions drop 7th straight, eliminated by Stampeders:
Earlier in the quarter, Mitchell dished a short pass to Malik Henry and he sprinted nine yards into the end zone for Calgary's fourth TD of the night. Paredes made the convert, putting the Stamps up 33-23 with less than four minutes on the clock.
Lucky Whitehead appeared to give the home side the lead midway through the final frame with an 86-yard return TD.
The speedy receiver did a front flip into the end zone before the on-field official called Lions linebacker Josh Wood for holding and fullback Mario Villamizar for roughness.
B.C. came into the fourth quarter down 10 points, but refused to roll over.
Jevon Cottoy capped a 14-play, 91-yard drive with a gutsy 12-yard sprint, evading two tackles before diving into the end zone. Vogel made the convert and cut Calgary's lead to 26-23.
The third quarter saw the two sides exchange field goals.
Paredes made a 44-yard kick to put the Stamps up 26-13 and Vogel replied with a 37-yarder before the end of the quarter.
The Lions have struggled with kicking all season and signed the 25-year-old American kicker on Nov. 2 after being waived by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens ahead of training camp.
The Stamps opened the second half with a four-play, 71-yard scoring drive that ended with Ka'Deem Carey running in a six-yard TD.
Despite the final result, the Lions kept pace in the first half, opening the scoring and keeping the deficit to just three points heading into the half.
B.C. scored on the game's opening drive, where Reilly connected with Jevon Cottoy for 13 yards and Bryan Burnham on a 19-yard toss as the Lions made steady progress down the field with eight plays. Vogel capped the drive with a 13-yard field goal to give B.C. an early 3-0 lead.
After some great rushes from running back James Butler, B.C. got a 39-yard field goal from Vogel to whittle its deficit to 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Midway through the second, Reilly sent a toss to Burnham in the end zone, only to see the ball glance off his fingers. B.C. challenged for pass interference by Richard Leonard and after review, the call on the field was overturned, giving the Lions a first down at the one-yard line.
Rourke muscled the ball across the goal line for the touchdown and Vogel hit the convert to put the home side up 13-7.
Calgary evened things up before the end of the quarter, with Mitchell finding Begelton in the end zone for a 15-yard TD strike. Paredes' convert attempt sailed wide of the uprights though, leaving the score knotted at 13-13.
A clumsy misstep by B.C. gave Calgary the lead heading into halftime.
The Lions had the Stamps stopped on third down with just seconds left on the clock but were called for too many men. Calgary pushed up the field before Paredes hit a 35-yard field goal to put his side up 16-13 to end the second.
B.C. will wrap its season on Nov. 19 when it hosts the Edmonton Elks. The Stampeders will complete their regular season the following night when they host the league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers.