ABOVE: Zach Collaros couldn’t have picked a bigger game to mark his return to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ lineup
HAMILTON, Ont. – Zach Collaros had a TD pass against his former team to earn the Hamilton Tiger-Cats a 13-12 win over the Toronto Argonauts in the first-ever game at Tim Hortons Field on Monday.
Collaros appeared in his first game since suffering a concussion July 4 against Edmonton. He also made his first career start against Toronto, the team he had spent the last two seasons with prior to signing with Hamilton this off-season as a free agent.
But the contest was indeed a defensive battle on a sunny, blustery afternoon, less than 16 hours after the City of Hamilton finally signed off on the facility to allow the game to go ahead as scheduled.
Toronto (3-7) remains atop the East Division standings but the Ticats (2-6) moved to within two points of first.
Toronto had one last shot to pull out the win, taking the ball at its 32-yard line after recovering Moissis Madu’s fumble with 32 seconds remaining but the Ticats tackled Mike Bradwell on the game’s final play to preserve the win.
Tim Hortons Field certainly impressed despite sections still remaining a construction zone as work continues there. As a result, the seating capacity for Monday’s game was about 18,000 – which included Canadian John Saunders and Chris Berman of ESPN- roughly 6,000 short of capacity once the facility is finally completed.
But that certainly didn’t take away from the party-like atmosphere as fans began their traditional “Argos Suck” chant shortly after the visitors came to the field, then broke out into a loud rendition of “Oskie Wee Wee,” after Hamilton’s Frederic Plesius recovered Trent Guy’s fumble on the opening kickoff to set up Justin Medlock’s 29-yard field goal just 1:25 into the contest.
However, the brand of football wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as the venue as neither offence could really muster much consistency.
Hamilton’s problem was penalties and Jeremiah Masoli’s costly fumble at the Toronto one-yard line with just over nine minutes remaining and the Ticats looking to add to a 13-12 advantage.
Dropped TD passes by Grant and Madu in the first half didn’t help, either.
Toronto’s issues were mainly in the return game as the Argos twice lost fumbles. A clear sign of the Argos’ offensive woes was quarterback Ricky Ray needing to wait until the fourth quarter to become the youngest player in CFL history to reach the 50,000-yard career mark.
Ray, 34, needed just 90 yards to achieve the milestone but didn’t do so until a 37-yard completion to Jason Barnes with just over
eight minutes remaining to play.
Hamilton improved to 27-13-1 all-time on Labour Day versus Toronto as both teams donned their signature third jerseys – white and powder blue for Toronto, black with gold numbers for Hamilton.
The second half featured precious little offence as Medlock’s conceded safety at 2:34 of the third accounted for all the scoring.
Bakari Grant had Hamilton’s touchdown. Medlock had two field goals and a convert.
Trent Guy scored Toronto’s touchdown. Swayze Waters added the convert and single, with the other points coming on two safeties.
Ray’s 20-yard TD strike to Guy at 14:38 cut Hamilton’s half-time lead to 13-10, a score that flattered the Argos given they had just 89 total yards offensively the entire first half, 98 of which came on the Guy touchdown march.
The Ticats did their part with two crucial penalties on the drive and were flagged 13 times for 87 yards in the first half alone.
Waters was Toronto’s first-half star with an 80-yard punt single and twice putting Hamilton on its one-yard line with booming boots.
Hamilton dominated play in the opening quarter, starting with Plesius’ fumble recovery on the opening kickoff then when Collaros hit Grant on a nine-yard TD strike at 7:06 to put the Ticats ahead 10-1. T
he Tim Hortons Field faithful celebrated the first-ever touchdown at the stadium by throwing the promotional mini footballs they received prior to the contest on to the field.
Ray was 7-of-16 passing for 65 yards while Collaros completed 14-of-18 attempts for 189 yards.