MONCTON, N.B. — Jeremiah Johnson ran in a touchdown in the fourth quarter and the Montreal Alouettes held off a late Toronto comeback attempt to beat the Argonauts 28-22 on Sunday in the CFL’s return to Atlantic Canada for the first time since 2013.
It all came down to the last play of the game when the Alouettes managed to break up a short goal-line pass by Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Pitched as a chance to showcase the league to a potential regional fanbase, the 10,126 who attended the sunsplashed event were treated to an uneven contest that was punctuated by big plays.
The decisive play for the Alouettes (5-4) came on a 25-yard fourth quarter touchdown run by running back Johnson.
It came after the Argos (1-8) had regained the lead before the end of the third quarter when Bethel-Thompson hit wide receiver Derel Walker with a 38-yard touchdown pass.
The play by the Argos had appeared to stem Montreal’s momentum after the Alouettes sprung in front with a spectacular double reverse that saw quarterback Vernon Adams eventually hit wideout Quan Bray with a 34-yard touchdown pass deep in the Toronto end zone.
This, after the Als had opened the second half with an Adams 60-yard bomb to Eugene Lewis to narrow the Argos lead to 16-13.
The Argos, who were desperate for a win, played like it in the first half, emerging with a 16-6 lead.
Toronto scored the only points of the first quarter through a 39-yard field goal by kicker Tyler Crapigna.
Crapigna added two more field goals in the second quarter but was riding his luck. The first, a 44-yarder struck the left upright, while the second, a 46-yarder struck the right upright before falling through.
The field goals sandwiched the first career touchdown by Canadian wideout Jimmy Ralph of the Argos, who capped a seven play-47 yard drive with a six yard touchdown catch.
With Toronto up 16-0, the Alouettes responded with a five-play 75-yard touchdown drive that included a 40-yard pass completion to wide receiver DeVier Posey. Adams was eventually able to run the ball in for a touchdown before the Alouettes missed the two-point conversion, making the score 16-6.
The Argos missed a golden opportunity to extend the lead near the end of the half when Bethel-Thompson fumbled a snap outside the Montreal goal line that was recovered by the Alouettes.
Although promoters predicted a near sellout, there were patches of empty seats on both sides of Croix-Bleue Medavie Stadium on the University of Moncton campus.
The game was sponsored by Schooners Sports and Entertainment (SSE), the business group trying to land a CFL franchise in Halifax.
Co-founder Bruce Bowser expressed satisfaction with Sunday’s turnout.
“I think everything is a learning curve,” said Bowser. “Halifax is where we are looking to put the stadium. We are playing in Moncton because there is a stadium here and we are trying to generate as much interest as we can from the Atlantic region.”
CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said both he and the league owners continue to back the business group.
“The thing I love about these guys is they have just been sticking to it,” Ambrosie said. “I am personally committed to this ownership group wanting to see this happen.”
It was the fourth time Moncton hosted the regular-season game dubbed Touchdown Atlantic.