Today was an important day in CFL history as the Toronto Argonauts opened their new home, BMO Field, against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Argos went all out with the pomp and circumstance even bringing in legendary alumni Joe Theismann, Raghib Ishmael and the famous Michael “Pinball” Clemons to help with the pre-game festivities. This night was a big party for the Argos and all their fans to enjoy.
Nobody told the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this, who walked into BMO Field to crash the party and left with a convincing 42-20 victory over the Argonauts.
Hamilton led this game wire-to-wire, beginning at the very start with what is now a great trivia answer: a safety conceded by Argonauts punter Liram Hajrullahu became the first points ever scored at BMO Field in regular season play. Things only got worse for the Argos and better for the TiCats from here on in. Filling in for the injured Zach Collaros, Jeremiah Masoli had more than his share of skeptics coming into the game.
He soundly proved his skeptics wrong on this day, thanks to supremely accurate passing and spectacular play from his receivers. The first major score at BMO Field went to Hamilton’s Andy Fantuz, who caught a ball that initially tipped off the hands of an Argonauts defender – Fantuz stayed focused on the ball to haul in the touchdown. After the convert Hamilton led 9-0. Two field goals later, from the new Hamilton kicker Brett Maher, had Hamilton up 15-0 much to the delight of the many Hamilton fans who made the trip up, while aggravating the home fans to no end.
Brett Maher then nailed a 50 yard field goal kick to make it 18-0 for the Tiger-Cats who were quickly fanning out any and all flames of excitement created by the home fans in Toronto. It wasn’t until there was just 3:37 remaining in the first half that the Argonauts even got on the board – Hajrullahu nailed a field goal for the Argonauts’ first ever points at BMO Field – then he was able to get another through the uprights just before halftime to get the game to an 18-6 defecit for the Argonauts.
The Argonauts looked like a team that was frustrated early and often. Usually sure handed veteran quarterback Ricky Ray was sacked six times by the Hamilton defense. What also didn’t help was, early on in the third quarter, a Ricky Ray pass attempt was bobbled by the receiver and bounced right into the hands of a waiting Simoni Lawrence, who took it 37 yards to the house for yet another Hamilton score.
With the score now 25-6, things were looking quite bleak, but then the Argonauts generated some momentum as Ricky Ray led the Argos down the field on a drive that culminated in a Vidal Hazelton touchdown, the first major in team history at their new home. After the convert the score sat at 25-13. Brandon Banks tried to cut to the outside on his punt return when he slipped, popping the ball loose and giving possession right back to the Argos on his own ten yard line. On the very next play Ricky Ray hit Hazelton again for a touchdown and all of a sudden it was a 25-20 game. Masoli and the TiCats provided a wonderful response as he drove his own team down the field to a Hamilton touchdown on a 19 yard pass. The score was 32-20 Hamilton after the convert, and once again the Tiger-Cats had opened up a big lead.
Coming into not only this game, but this season, Chad Owens had played many years in Argonaut double blue before being let go this summer. Owens was somewhat jaded by the whole process and came into this game highly motivated to incite revenge against his former club from the other side of the Battle Of Ontario. Chad Owens finally got his revenge with a beautiful 30 yard leaping touchdown reception to put an exclamation point on a powerful Hamilton performance on the evening. After the convert the score was 39-20, which was later padded by a Brett Maher field goal to round out the scoring at 42-20 for Hamilton.
Much credit has to be given to Hamilton for performing so well in a hostile environment, especially to that of Jeremiah Masoli, Chad Owens and Simoni Lawrence. Jeremiah Masoli threw for 318 yards with only ten incomplete passes and no turnovers. Chad Owens got his sweet revenge against his old club with a highlight reel touchdown, while Simoni Lawrence had seven tackles and his first ever touchdown to cap off an amazing night.
On the other hand, the Argos looked rusty from the get-go. Ricky Ray threw for 282 yards with one interception in an effort that must improve in order for the Argos to give their fans at BMO Field something to cheer about. The Argos must completely forget about this game. Now that it is out of the way we should see this team return to form.
These two teams provided a spectacular opening night game of the 2016 CFL season and will be at opposite ends of the spectrum heading into practice this week. The Argonauts head out to Regina to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders next week at 10:00pm EST on June 30. The Tiger-Cats head home to welcome B.C. into the Tim Horton’s Field for their home opener on Canada Day, July 1 at 7pm EST.