Dane Evans ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a thrilling 27-19 road win over the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division final Sunday.
Evans’ one-yard run at 12:12 followed by Michael Domagala’s convert put Hamilton ahead 27-16. Evans gave the Ticats their first lead of the day, 18-13, on a one-yard run at 3:35 before Don Jackson ran in the two-point convert.
It was a remarkable comeback for Hamilton, which trailed 12-0 at halftime as its offence sputtered badly over the opening two quarters.
Toronto drove to the Hamilton 11-yard line, setting up Boris Bede’s 18-yard field goal — his sixth of the game — to pull Toronto within eight points with 1:10 remaining. But Hamilton’s Jaelon Acklin recovered the onside kickoff.
Evans entered the game early in the second quarter after starter Jeremiah Masoli lost a fumble to end a promising Hamilton drive. Evans finished 16-of-16 passing for 249 yards and a TD while Masoli completed four-of-six passes for 22 yards.
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Toronto pulled to within 20-16 on Boris Bede’s 47-yard field goal at 8:45 before an energetic, season-high BMO Field gathering of 21,492. Many spectators arrived early and could be seen tailgating hours before kickoff.
Evans’ 30-yard TD strike to Acklin tied the score 12-12 at 9:18 of the third. But Evans, who extended the drive with a four-yard run on a fake field goal the play before, was sacked on the two-point convert attempt.
Papi White put Hamilton on the board at 5:19 of the third quarter when he returned a 59-yard Bede punt 92 yards for the touchdown. Domagala missed the convert.
Bethel-Thompson cleared to play
Toronto took a 13-12 lead into the fourth after Bede missed from 41 yards out at 11:54.
Hamilton will have home-field advantage in next Sunday’s Grey Cup game at Tim Hortons Field. The Ticats will make a second straight championship appearance after dropping a 33-12 decision to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019.
Hamilton will face either Winnipeg or the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, linebacker Dexter McCoil Sr., and defensive back Jeff Richards all started for Toronto after successfully completing the CFL’s COVID-19 protocol.
The trio, along with rush end Charleston Hughes and receiver Llevi Noel, attended the Toronto Raptors’ home game Thursday, which violated the CFL’s protocols. All five were sent home by the club Friday.
Normally, the players would have to quarantine for four days and provide two negative tests before being able to resume team activities. But on Friday, the CFL announced they could return if they quarantined for 48 hours and provided three negative tests, the latest which was conducted Sunday.
Bethel-Thompson, McCoil Sr. and Richards all posted three negative tests, making them eligible to play Sunday. Hughes and Noel were both on Toronto’s injured list and didn’t dress for the game.
Argos drop to 6-2 at home
Bethel-Thompson was 24-of-38 passing for 283 yards in his first CFL start. He posted a 7-2 record as Toronto’s starter this season.
Toronto came in with a 6-1 record at BMO Field this season and won the four-game, regular-season series with Hamilton 3-1.
Bede’s field goal at 13:25 of the second staked Toronto to a 12-0 intermission lead. But the quarter had a bizarre ending as Evans completed a pass to Steven Dunbar Jr., whose fumble was recovered by Argos linebacker Henoc Muamba.
Muamba lateralled to Shaq Richardson, who returned the ball to the Hamilton 25-yard line before being stripped of the ball by Evans. That prevented at least another Bede field goal try as Hamilton regained possession, allowing Evans to hit a knee to end the half.
The score flattered Hamilton, whose offence sputtered throughout the opening half and lost two fumbles.
Bede’s 47-yard field goal at 8:44 of the second quarter staked Toronto to a 9-0 advantage.
Toronto controlled the opening quarter, twice driving inside the Hamilton five-yard line. But both times long, smart-looking drives stalled, forcing the Argos to settle for Bede field goals at 10 and 11 yards at 6:31 and 12:55, respectively.
Hamilton did drive to the Toronto 16-yard line, but Cordarro Law forced Masoli to fumble, and it was recovered by Chris Edwards to end a nine-play, 59-yard Ticats’ march.
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