Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie can only hope the Toronto Argonauts’ quest for top spot in the East Division standings comes down to kicker Boris Bede.
Bede, 31, has played a huge role in Toronto (8-4) being atop the East, having made 25-of-30 field goals (83.3 per cent) and all 18 converts he’s attempted. Six of his field goals have been from 50-or-more yards, just two short of the CFL record.
On Friday night, Toronto hosts the arch-rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-5) at BMO Field needing either a tie or win to clinch first in the East and home-field for the division final Dec. 5. That’s important considering the Argos are 5-0 at home this season.
“This is huge,” Bede said during a videoconference Tuesday. “We know the consequences of this game and obviously what could happen.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge just like every week. But we know this is a very important game to go against Hamilton at home and we have to beat them.”
The contest certainly means plenty to the Ticats, who’d clinch a home playoff game with a win or tie. They’d also assume first in the East Division heading into the final week of the regular season.
Toronto has won two of the three meetings this season with Hamilton and Bede has figured in both.
Bede’s 51-yard kick into a wind on the final play earned Toronto a 24-23 victory Oct. 11 at Tim Hortons Field. A month earlier, the Argos held on for a 17-16 victory at BMO Field when Ticats kicker Michael Domagala missed a convert with 1:24 remaining after Sean Thomas Erlington’s 21-yard run.
Bede’s 26-yard field goal in the third quarter put Toronto ahead 17-7.
However, Dinwiddie isn’t surprised by Bede’s play. When Toronto acquired Bede from the Montreal Alouettes on Feb. 13 for Canadian kicker Tyler Crapigna, Dinwiddie made it clear he had high expectations for Bede.
“I told him when we brought him in here I was expecting him to hit some long field goals and he’s been a difference-maker in our season, for sure,” Dinwiddie said. “We’ve called Boris’s number anytime we feel it’s around the 50 … we feel like he can make those kicks.
“There’ve been some times where most coaches would probably punt and we’re going for the field goal and getting three and I think he’s done a good job of keeping us in games when we’re not scoring touchdowns.”
Bede has made all five field goals he’s attempted in each of Toronto’s last two games (31-29 overtime home win over B.C. on Oct. 30, 23-20 road victory Saturday in Ottawa).
Dinwiddie wasted no time showing his confidence in his kicker, as Bede’s first field-goal attempt with Toronto was a 58-yard boot in the team’s season-opening 23-20 road win over Calgary. Bede had enough leg but the kick sailed wide left.
Bede made two of the next three he tried, including the game winner from 32 yards out with 41 seconds remaining. Bede’s first was a 54-yard boot in the first half that remains his longest this season.
Bede appreciates having Dinwiddie’s confidence but admits his coach’s willingness to at least entertain trying long field goals was an early adjustment.
“I’m not going to lie to you, at the beginning of the season I was actually surprised,” Bede said. “My first field goal attempt in Calgary was (from) 58 yards and I was not expecting it.
“He’s put me in that position where he’s trusting me to put the ball through the uprights at any distance in any condition … that’s what I am here to do and you want to do it to the best of your abilities. I try to do my best.”
However, the six-foot-four, 225-pound Bede does more than just kick field goals. He’s also Toronto’s punter and handles kickoff duties.
Bede has allowed himself to visualize kicking the game-winning field goal Friday. Then again, it’s something he does before each game.
“Every weekend I’m expecting myself to just kick game-winning field goals,” he said. “I try to visualize it every week to try and be ready for it.”
Although both Toronto and Hamilton will have one more game to play after Friday night, Bede said the rivalry game will have a playoff feel to it.
“Hamilton and Toronto do not like each other, we’ll make it clear,” he said. “Obviously we’re excited to host them here but this is a playoff game.
“If you are not in the mindset already you might be at the wrong place because all of our efforts, all of our energies are going into this game. We need that (win).”
Also on Tuesday, Toronto signed receiver Josh Huff, offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman and linebacker Brady Sheldon, all Americans.
Huff had 37 catches for 507 yards in nine games this season with Calgary after appearing in 10 contests in 2019 with the Stampeders. The six-foot-seven, 320-pound Coleman is a seven-year CFL veteran having also spent time with Edmonton (2013-15) and Saskatchewan (2016-19).
Sheldon comes the CFL after spending time in the NFL with the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, Cleveland, Green Bay, Cincinnati and the New York Jets from 2017-2021.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press