Tommy Nield’s first CFL touchdown catch was certainly a dramatic one.
The 23-year-old Guelph, Ont., native hauled in McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s 37-yard scoring strike at 12:10 of the fourth quarter to rally the Toronto Argonauts to a wild 23-20 home win over the B.C. Lions on Saturday.
It was the only catch of the game for the six-foot-three, 203-pound Nield, a 2021 fourth-round CFL draft pick from McMaster.
“I won’t lie, when I saw it coming it felt like it was forever before it got into my hands,” Nield said. “I did bobble it a little bit but thankfully I secured it.
“We were both on the same page. He threw a great ball.”
B.C. kicker Sean Whyte’s 41-yard field goal attempt with 1:30 remaining hit the left upright.
B.C. quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. threw a 31-yard TD pass to Keon Hatcher just 50 seconds into the fourth to put B.C. ahead 17-16. It was set up by Jordan Williams’ 38-yard return of a Bethel-Thompson fumble before teammate Mathieu Betts recovered Williams’ fumble at the Toronto 31-yard line.
Whyte connected from 30 yards out at 10:44 to give the Lions a 20-16 advantage.
Toronto (9-6) moved four points ahead of Montreal (7-7) atop the East Division. The Alouettes play the Ottawa Redblacks (3-11) on Monday.
Toronto, which has already clinched a playoff berth, and Montreal end their regular seasons with a home-and-home series. But the win also allowed the Argos to move past last week’s 29-2 road loss in Calgary.
The two points was Toronto’s lowest total since a 26-0 loss to Edmonton on July 25, 2019.
“I think what you see is a team that’s able to handle adversity and that’s why football reflects life,” said Bethel-Thompson. “It’s not about what happens to you, it’s how you respond to it (and) that’s why this game is a beautiful game.
“There’s a lot of good men in that locker room who have big hearts … That’s what the CFL is all about, that’s why it’s such a special league because good men make good plays at the right time.”
Bethel-Thompson completed 27-of-40 passes for 352 yards and a TD. He also ran three times for 24 yards and was glad to avenge his earlier fumble.
“A turnover at the worst time,” he said. “It’s something where you have to stay in the Zen, stay in the moment and not try to bring previous mistakes into that moment.
“That’s definitely something I’ll be looking at (Sunday) and getting better from.”
Toronto’s Markeith Ambles registered eight catches for 121 yards, both game highs. With defensive lineman Shane Ray, linebacker Wynton McManis and defensive back DaShaun Amos all injured, veteran tackle Ja’Gared Davis led a spirited Argos defence with six tackles and two of the unit’s three sacks.
“Our defensive line is pretty darn good,” said Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “Guys were moving around and we didn’t miss a beat.
“This is a big one for us, especially at home. We don’t want to lose home games, we’ve lost too many home games this year.”
Toronto improved to 5-3 at BMO Field and will visit Edmonton next week before facing Montreal.
“The CFL is all about being hot at the right time,” Bethel-Thompson said. “It’s a marathon 18-game season, it’s brutal, it’s back-to-backs, it’s everything that makes football hard and so you want to have momentum going in at the right time.
“What it tells us is we’re fighters and if you’re fighters you have a fighting chance. I’m excited for the stretch.”
B.C. (10-5) remains second in the West Division, ahead of idle Calgary (10-5) after winning the season-series with the Stampeders. The Lions have clinched a playoff berth, their first since 2018.
B.C. hosts Winnipeg (14-2) next week before visiting Edmonton (4-12) on Oct. 21. The Lions conclude their regular season in Winnipeg on Oct. 28.
Adams finished 21-of-32 passing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. James Butler rushed nine times for a game-high 82 yards
Toronto played its first home game since a 37-20 win over Hamilton on Aug. 26 before a season-high BMO Field gathering of 14,963. There were 11,089 spectators present Saturday as the Toronto Blue Jays were simultaneously facing the Seattle Mariners in American League wild-card playoff action at Rogers Centre.
“I think BMO is the best stadium in the league,” Bethel-Thompson said. “It’s the only field with grass, it’s what the game is supposed to be played on.
“You can feel the ghosts (of) players past coming out of the turf, you’re more in touch with the ground. It’s soil, it’s real stuff, this is what football is all about.”
Chad Kelly scored Toronto’s other touchdown. Boris Bede had two converts and three field goals.
Alexander Hollins registered B.C.’s other touchdown. Whyte kicked two converts and two field goals.
After winning the toss and deferring, Toronto took the ball — and wind — to open the third. Bede’s 26-yard field goal at 8:08 put the Argos ahead 16-7 before Whyte countered with a 16-yard boot at 12:30.
Adams hit Hollins on a 33-yard TD strike at 12:25 of the second to cut Toronto’s halftime lead to 13-7. Hollins made the catch between Argos’ defenders Royce Metchie and Jamal Peters to cap a smart five-play, 78-yard march.
Bede’s 21-yard field goal at 6:53 gave Toronto a 13-0 lead.
Kelly’s one-yard TD run 15 seconds into the second put Toronto ahead 10-0, set up by Benoit Marion’s fumble recovery at the Lions 29-yard line. Twice the Argos lined up on third-and-short inside the Lions’ 10-yard line and each time the visitors jumped offside, giving the Double Blue a fresh set of downs.
Bede opened the scoring with a 13-yard field goal at 8:31 of the first.