It’s not often the Argonauts, or the Canadian Football League, get to be the toast of the town in Toronto. On Sunday, a big win for the home team in one of the county’s biggest and oldest sporting events changed that for at least one evening.
The Argonauts capped a memorable week of CFL celebrations in Canada’s largest city by beating the Calgary Stampeders 35-22 in the 100th Grey Cup. It was the Argonauts’ record 16th championship and first since 2004. It also marked back-to-back years in which the host team captured the title, after the B.C. Lions did it in Vancouver last year. A pro-Toronto sellout crowd of 53,208 roared its approval of the home team's triumph at the Rogers Centre.
Despite the lopsided score, it didn’t always seem like it would be easy for the Argos. On the opening play of the game, Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray was intercepted. But the Stamps went two-and-out, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Toronto opened the scoring in the first quarter when Ricky Foley, named the game's outstanding Canadian player, recovered a Jon Cornish fumble at the Calgary 49-yard line. After a couple of Chad Kackert runs to get the Argos into the red zone, Ray connected with Chad Owens for a four-yard touchdown pass.
Kackert was dominant for the Argos and was named the game’s most outstanding player. He rushed for 133 yards and also caught eight passes for 62 yards.
Every time the Argos made a big play, the Stampeders were unable to answer. They settled for field goals all night.
Toronto got off to a great start in the second quarter when Pacino Horne intercepted a Kevin Glenn pass and took it back 25 yards for the pick six. It was his longest interception return of the season and his only touchdown.
Calgary tried to answer late in the second quarter. But after Glenn connected with Nik Lewis for a 61-yard catch-and-run play that put the Stamps into the red zone, they once again had to settle for a Rene Paredes field goal. That proved to be costly as the Argos got the ball back one more time before halftime.
Toronto’s Dontrelle Inman made a great catch near the goal line and was called down at the one-yard line. The Argos challenged, and after a lengthy review the call stood. Undeterred, the Argos scored on the next play. Jarious Jackson replaced Ray, and with everyone in the stadium expecting a quarterback sneak, he rolled out and found Inman for a one-yard touchdown toss.
The teams traded field goals in the third quarter and the Stamps inched closer when Toronto conceded a safety. The Argos sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter when hometown boy Andre Durie caught a pass from Ray and rumbled into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
For the Argos, the victory was the climax to a season that was full of change for the franchise. General manager Jim Barker gave up his head coaching duties at the end of last season, and brought in Scott Milanovich from the Montreal Alouettes. Milanovich, who wins a Grey Cup title in his first season as a CFL head coach, then went out and convinced old friend Chris Jones to leave Calgary and come to Toronto as the team's defensive co-ordinator. That hiring got the Argos in trouble with the CFL head office, but that will take a back seat to Jones's wizardry - highlighted by the job the Toronto defence did on shutting down league rushing leader Jon Cornish on Sunday night.
Jones wouldn't make himself available to the media all week, but spoke after Sunday's game. He wouldn't admit that beating the Stampeders was a little more special.
"Any time you get to play for a Grey Cup it's special,'' Jones said."It doesn't matter who you're playing."