TORONTO — DeVone Claybrooks’ first CFL head-coaching win was anything but pretty.
Sergio Castillo’s single off a missed 42-yard field goal try on the final play earned B.C. an 18-17 decision over the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday night. But after watching his club come up short in their first three games, even an ugly victory was a thing of beauty for the Lions rookie head coach.
"Anything worth having in life is worth working for and those guys worked for it and we finished," Claybrooks said. "Serge came in and missed it but got enough on it to give us a point.
"A win is a win. We’ll take it."
Toronto made it 17-17 with 40 seconds remaining on McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s 23-yard TD strike to James Wilder Jr. and two-point conversion toss to S.J. Green. But Drew Brown’s kickoff went out of bounds, giving B.C. possession at its 45 with 38 seconds remaining.
Quarterback Mike Reilly drove the Lions (1-3) to the Toronto 30-yard line, setting up a 37-yard boot. But predictably in a contest full of mistakes, B.C. received an illegal procedure penalty, forcing Castillo to try the 42-yard boot.
Castillo’s kick sailed wide for his first miss of the season. Chris Rainey corralled the ball but stepped on the back boundary line, giving B.C. the win.
Traditional CFL endzones are 20 yards deep however they’re just 18 yards at BMO Field. But that was of little solace to Rainey, who was facing his former team for the first time.
"I feel like I lost the game for the team," Rainey said. "It (kick) was kind of high, I kept going back and tried not to go too far deep.
"I caught it, took a step, looked and saw the white and heard the whistle. That was it, worst feeling I’ve ever had."
Ironically, B.C. practised last week driving from its 45-yard downfield to kick a game-winning field goal with time running out.
"When you practise situational football, they’ve been in it before and there’s no panic," Claybrookes said. "Kudos to Mike, when you have a quarterback like that you let him handle it and he put them in position."
Reilly finished 23-of-34 passing for 272 yards with a TD and interception. John White IV ran for 138 yards and a TD while adding four catches for 28 yards and Lemar Durant registered nine receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Reilly became the 26th CFL quarterback since 1950 to start 100 career regular-season games. He improved to 55-45 overall and 4-6 versus Toronto.
"This one could’ve easily been another loss so we certainly need to take a good, hard look at that," Reilly said. "But at the same time last week’s game could’ve easily been a win and we could be sitting here 2-2 and we could be sitting 0-4.
"We’re 1-3 so that’s probably how it should go by the way we’ve played. We’ll take the win … but we need to look at why we were sputtering there and get that fixed."
Last week, B.C. led Calgary 22-10 through three quarters before dropping a 36-32 decision. Saturday’s win marked the first time this season the Lions didn’t allow 30 or more points.
"We understand we made the game a lot tougher on ourselves than it should’ve been," Claybrooks said. "But we’re building and it’s a step in the right direction."
Toronto (0-3) failed to earn Corey Chamblin his first win as its head coach. But after being outscored 96-21 in the first two losses, the Argos were at least in this contest.
"It all comes down to inches," Chamblin said. "Everything is small right now.
"We’re close in some areas. If we can shore those up, we can definitely get into the win column."
But, again, Toronto was its own worst enemy, often at the most inopportune time.
"This was all about shooting ourselves in the foot," Bethel-Thompson said. "Different people at different times, it’s all the same story and we can’t have that three weeks in a row."
Durant put B.C. ahead 10-3 at 4:46 of the third with a 29-yard TD grab at 4:46 of the third. It was set up by T.J. Lee’s recovery of Wilder Jr.’s fumble that gave B.C. possession at the Toronto 45.
White’s three-yard run just 1:03 into the fourth boosted B.C.’s lead to 17-9.
Rainey pulled Toronto to within 10-9 with a brilliant 79-yard punt-return TD at 10:14 of the third. But the Argos botched the snap on the convert.
Field judge Bryan Taylor collided with a Lions player on Rainey’s return and laid on the field motionless during the play. After receiving medical attention, Taylor walked off on his own.
Bethel-Thompson was 25-of-33 passing for 303 yards with a TD and interception in his first start of the season. But he’s dropped his last seven straight contests dating back to last year.
Castillo kicked another field goal and two converts for B.C.
Brown added a field goal Toronto.
Brown’s missed 33-yard attempt with under a minute failed to give Toronto a 6-3 half-time lead. Castillo’s 14-yard field goal at 8:22 tied the score 3-3 and was set up by Anthony Thompson’s end-zone interception.
Brown opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal at 12:47 of the first.