Lions 28 Argonauts 15
TORONTO — Chris Rainey and Jeremiah Johnson scored fourth-quarter TDs to rally the B.C. Lions to a 28-15 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night.
Jonathon Jennings hit Rainey on an eight-yard TD strike at 3:55 before finding Nick Moore for the two-point convert. Kicker Ty Long added a 67-yard single on the ensuing kickoff to put B.C. (1-1) ahead 19-15.
Johnson gave the Lions a 26-15 lead at 10:02 with a three-yard run. It came three plays after Ronnie Yell recovered James Wilder Jr.’s fumble as the Lions scored 10 points off Toronto turnovers.
The Lions’ final points came on a safety.
Ricky Ray staked Toronto (1-1) to a 15-10 lead with a four-yard TD strike to Armanti Edwards just 13 seconds into the fourth. However, the two-point convert attempt was unsuccessful, to the dismay of the announced BMO Field gathering of 11,219.
Toronto drew 13,583 fans to its season-opening 32-15 home win over Hamilton on Sunday. Last year’s worst crowd was 12,373 for a 30-20 loss to Ottawa on July 13 as the Argos averaged 16,168 fans per game in 2016, their first at BMO Field.
Toronto had two factors working against it Friday night. Not only was it the start of a holiday weekend but the Toronto Blue Jays were hosting the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre.
The Argos averaged 47,356 in their heyday in 1976 at Exhibition Place. In 2014, the average Rogers Centre regular-season crowd was 17,791 — down from 21,926 in 2013 and 23,690 in 2012.
Toronto averaged just 15,083 spectators in ‘03 when it was 9-9-0 and taken over by the league. Then again, just 19,175 fans watched the Lions drop a 30-27 home decision to Edmonton last week at B.C. Place Stadium.
Toronto moved to BMO Field following 27 seasons at Rogers Centre. Although the domed facility had a capacity exceeding 52,000 for football the Argos struggled there, averaging just 12,431 spectators in 2015.
Fans often complained about the proximity of the field as well as a cold and antiseptic atmosphere at Rogers Centre. By comparison, BMO Field is an open-air facility providing fans with terrific sightlines of both the field of play and nearby Lake Ontario.
Friday’s game continued a trend with these two teams. The home club hasn’t won in the series since Toronto did so in 2013.
Long put B.C. ahead 10-6 at 4:48 of the third, connecting from 29 yards out. It was set up by Yell’s interception.
Long finished with three field goals, a convert and two singles.
Toronto’s Lirim Hajrullahu added three field goals.
Hajrullahu’s 21-yard field goal to end the second quarter cut B.C.’s half-time lead to 7-6. It came two plays after Johnny Sears Jr.’s 28-yard interception return to the B.C. 14-yard line with seven seconds remaining.
Long’s 43-yard field goal at 6:17 of the second, then a 48-yard single at 13:33 gave the Lions their four-point lead after the two kickers exchanged field goals in the opening quarter.
The defences were dominant as B.C. held Toronto to 142 net yards but the Argos registered four sacks, an interception and fumble recovery. The Lions gained 242 yards offensively but Jennings was picked off and fumbled.