Toronto Argonauts very wary about facing winless Ottawa Redblacks

·4 min read

TORONTO — There's something about facing the Ottawa Redblacks that seems to agree with McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

The veteran quarterback is 6-0 versus Ottawa over his CFL career. He'll chase a seventh straight victory when the Toronto Argonauts (3-2) host the Redblacks (0-6) at BMO Field on Sunday.

"I had no idea but I put absolutely nothing in that," Bethel-Thompson said. "That's a very talented team, their backs are against the wall, they have nothing to lose, they're going to throw the kitchen sink at us with a very talented defence.

"I put nothing in that . . . you've got to fight every week."

Bethel-Thompson will also be looking to achieve a career milestone Sunday. The 34-year-old San Francisco native needs just 97 yards to reach 10,000 for his career in Canada.

The six-foot-four, 220-pound Bethel-Thompson is in his fifth CFL campaign, all spent with Toronto. He's coming off his best game of the season, throwing for 336 yards and two TDs in Toronto's 31-21 road win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday.

Sunday's contest is an important one for both teams.

Toronto is currently atop the East Division, two points ahead of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes (both with 2-5 records). Ottawa desperately needs to start winning to remain within striking distance of its conference rivals.

That's especially true considering it's looking more and more like only the top two finishers in the East will make the CFL postseason. Saskatchewan (4-3) enters this week's action fourth in the West but with more wins that the front-running Argos.

This marks the start of an important stretch for Toronto as seven of its next eight games are versus East Division competition. Four of those contests are against arch-rival Hamilton (2-5) but the Argos will also face Ottawa three times.

"Every game in the East counts as two," Bethel-Thompson said. "Those four with Hamilton will be big-time, they're always a grudge match.

"I think this game (versus Ottawa) will be a very difficult game and will set the tone for the next six that are in Ontario. It's a huge stretch for us."

A fact not lost upon Ryan Dinwidde, in his second season as Toronto's head coach.

"All of the games are important but especially the ones in the East," he said. "(Ottawa) is right on our heels, we haven't separated ourselves by any means and we're still right in the thick of it.

"If we lose a few it's going to set us back so we have to focus on each game, try and find a way to get a win and get two points in the East Division."

Toronto is coming off consecutive wins over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Argos earned a 30-24 victory in Wolfville, N.S., on July 16 before securing a 31-21 decision last weekend at Mosaic Stadium.

Bethel-Thompson completed 26-of-37 passes for 276 yards and two TDs with an interception in Nova Scotia. He enters action this week fifth among CFL passers with 1,373 yards while having also thrown seven touchdown passes with six interceptions.

"I think he's been playing more consistent," Dinwiddie said of his starter. "I think he went out to Halifax and did a darn good job that game and last week I thought he was really consistent."

And like Bethel-Thompson, Dinwiddie feels the Redblacks are a dangerous opponent.

"What we can't do is get ahead of ourselves and think we're just going to show up on gameday and win because that doesn't happen in professional football," he said. "No doubt (Ottawa is dangerous), I've been preaching that all week.

"The guys understand that and know Ottawa is a much better football team than its record. They're going to throw everything they can at us. Again, that's a darn good football club."

But Toronto is expected to play Sunday without veteran receiver DaVaris Daniels, who didn't practise this week due to a head injury.

"I know he feels better but if you go in there and he gets dinged a little bit, now it's a long-term thing," Dinwiddie said. "With head injuries give them the week then reassess the next week."

Defensive backs Justin Howell (shoulder), Hakeem Bailey (quad) and Douglas Coleman (healthy scratch) as well as receiver Tevaun Smith (wrist) were listed as being out on Ottawa's injury report Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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