Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, left, looks for an opening as he runs the ball against the Calgary Stampeders during CFL football action in Calgary, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Toronto (1-0) visits the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Bethel-Thompson leads upstart Toronto Argonauts into Winnipeg against Blue Bombers

Bethel-Thompson leads upstart Toronto Argonauts into Winnipeg against Blue Bombers

Another week, another rough West Division road opponent for McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Toronto Argonauts.

Toronto (1-0) visits the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night. Bethel-Thompson threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns in rallying the Argos to a season-opening 23-20 road win Saturday night over the Calgary Stampeders, who’d won 12 straight against the Argos heading into the contest and outscored the East Division by an average of 16 points per game.

But Bethel-Thompson guided Toronto to 11 fourth-quarter points to secure the victory.

After hitting Kurleigh Gittens Jr. on a 27-yard TD strike, Bethel-Thompson made it 20-20 after finding Eric Rogers for the two-point convert.

Later, Bethel-Thompson took Toronto on a 10-play march that began from its 21-yard with just over four minutes remaining. That set up Boris Bede’s 32-yard field goal that put the Argos ahead 23-20 with 41 seconds remaining, ultimately securing rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie his first CFL win against his former team.

Dinwiddie served as Calgary’s quarterback coach (2016-19) before being hired by Toronto.

Bethel-Thompson led the CFL in TD passes (26) and was third in passing (4,024) in 2019 when he made 13 starts for Toronto. But following consecutive 4-14-0 records, the Argos have revamped their lineup.

That included signing quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who won four-of-seven games he started with Calgary in 2019 when starter Bo Levi Mitchell was injured. That led Ottawa to acquire Arbuckle’s rights and sign him to an extension, but the 27-year-old Californian never played in the Canadian capital due the pandemic and was released by the Redblacks after they signed veteran Matt Nichols.

Arbuckle was expected to be Toronto’s starter but has been hampered by a hamstring injury.

Winnipeg (1-0) was very solid in its season-opening 19-6 home victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Thursday. With veteran running back Andrew Harris injured, sophomore Brady Oliveira ran for 126 yards on 22 carries in his first CFL start.

Quarterback Zach Collaros — who stepped in as Winnipeg’s starter late in 2019 and went 4-0, culminating with the club’s 33-12 Grey Cup win over Hamilton — was a tidy 18-of-28 passing for 217 yards and two TDs.

Winnipeg’s defence forced three turnovers — two interceptions, one fumble recovery — and held Hamilton’s potent offence to just 55 yards rushing and 297 total yards.

Pick: Winnipeg.

B.C. Lions versus Calgary Stampeders (Thursday night)

At Calgary, the Stampeders (0-1) again face an opponent they’ve had a lot of past success against. They’re 12-2 in their last 14 games versus B.C. and 8-2 in the 10 latest meetings at McMahon. Bo Levi Mitchell gets the start despite being limited in practice this week with a calf ailment. Rookie Nathan Rourke is expected to make a second straight start for the Lions although veteran Michael Reilly could play.

Pick: Calgary.

Montreal Alouettes versus Edmonton Elks (Saturday night)

At Edmonton, the Elks (0-1) look to shake off their season-opening 16-12 home loss to Ottawa. Quarterback Trevor Harris had three interceptions, one of which was returned 102 yards for a touchdown. The loss tarnished a solid defensive effort for the home side. Montreal (0-0) makes its season debut and should be fresh. Defensive tackle Almondo Sewell returns to Alberta but in an Als uniform.

Pick: Montreal.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Saturday night)

At Regina, Jeremiah Masoli makes a second straight start for Hamilton (0-1). The veteran quarterback was 24-of-41 passing for 242 yards with a TD and two interceptions last week against Winnipeg, which also rolled up 149 rushing yards on the Ticats. The Riders (1-0) stormed out to an early lead on B.C., then held on for the 33-29 win as Cody Fajardo threw for 230 yards with two TDs and an interception.

Pick: Hamilton.

Overall: 1-3.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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