Elks playoff hopes disappear in a 35-12 loss to the Argos

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly (left) and Edmonton Elks defensive lineman Noah Curtis (right) dive for a loose ball during first half CFL football action in Toronto on Friday, October 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Wynton McManis returned an interception 83 yards for a touchdown as Toronto defeated the Edmonton Elks 35-12 on Friday night in the Argonauts’ 150th anniversary game. It marked the second straight home contest that McManis has taken an interception back for the score.

“It’s hard, man, I kind of have more respect for offensive players now,” McManis said. “I was getting a little gassed about halfway.

“Hopefully it’s a habit. It’s always easier to create bad habits but right now we’ve got some good habits going.”

Toronto celebrated its historic anniversary by bringing back many notable former Argos. Among them were quarterbacks Ricky Ray, Condredge Holloway, Damon Allen, receivers Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, Chad Owens, Terry Greer and Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell, running back Bill Symons and Grey Cup-winning head coach Bob O’Billovich.

McManis stepped in front of a Tre Ford pass and scored at 9:25 of the third quarter, putting Toronto (13-2) ahead 28-11 before a BMO Field gathering of 14,246.

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“It was huge,” said Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, who’s also the club’s offensive coordinator. “I’m like, because I’m the playcaller, ‘Defence saved us again.’

“We’ve got to be better on offence but that was a game-changer right there. Big play by Wynton.”

Jake Julien’s 65-yard punt single to end the third cut Toronto’s lead to 28-12. But Cameron Dukes cemented the win with a one-yard TD run — his second of the game — at 5:51 of the fourth to make it 35-12.

Toronto has an 8-0 home record although one win came in Halifax.

Ford, 25, from Niagara Falls, Ont., finished 19-of-31 passing for 220 yards with a TD and two interceptions while rushing seven times for a team-high 47 yards. Ford was also sacked five times.

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“I thought our defence did a great job,” Dinwiddie said. “He’s a great quarterback, he’s going to escape the pocket.

“We made plays on the ball. We knew he’d give us some opportunities for some interceptions.”

The loss eliminated Edmonton (4-12) from playoff contention.

“I thought we executed at a high level in the first half and then in the second half we lost a lot of momentum after that pick-six,” Ford said. “That one is on me, (McManis) made a great play … I didn’t see him, I was reading (another) linebacker.”

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But it’s been a tale of two seasons for Edmonton, which opened the year with nine straight losses. Ford began 2023 on the bench and didn’t get an opportunity to start until the Elks were 0-8.

“There’s definitely a lot of highs, a lot of lows, we just have to learn from them,” he said. “There’s always going to be good times, there’s always going to be bad times.

“We just have to stick together through all of them.”

McManis was quick to heap praise upon Ford.

“I think Tre Ford adds a different element to their game,” he said. “You can’t just sit back and expect them to pass the ball, you’ve really got to hone in on your responsibility and play with great eyes.

“I just think they’re a loaded team. They have the talent, they have everything there they just have to figure out how to put it all together.”

Toronto starter Chad Kelly completed 11-of-16 passes for 165 yards before giving way to Dukes in the fourth. Kelly got the start Friday after both Dukes and Bryan Scott took all of the snaps in last week’s 31-21 loss in Winnipeg.

“He struggled at times,” Dinwiddie said of Kelly. “You could tell he had a week off so I’ve got to see how I’m going to manage that moving forward.

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“We’ve got to get him his reps to make sure he’s playing good football.”

Deonta McMahon scored Toronto’s other touchdown. Tommy Nield had a two-point convert while Boris Bede kicked three converts and two field goals.

Gavin Cobb registered Edmonton’s touchdown. Dean Faithfull booted a field goal and convert while Julien added two singles.

Emmanuel Arceneaux had four receptions for 50 yards to extend his consecutive games with a catch streak to 144. That tied him with Ben Cahoon for the fourth-longest stretch in CFL history.

Bede put Toronto ahead 21-11 with a 42-yard field goal at 4:30 of the third.

Ford pulled Edmonton to within 18-11 with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cobb at 14:51 of the second. Ford scrambled to escape the rush and was forced to the sideline where he made two defenders miss while having the presence of mind to find an open Cobb to cap an eight-play, 83-yard march.

“The play he made on the sideline on that touchdown was right in front of me and that was an amazing play,” Dinwiddie said. “We should’ve tackled him, I mean that’s how we feel.

“Yeah, we should’ve made that play but he made a great play.”

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Ford was sacked twice in the first half and ran three times for 17 yards. But the ’21 Hec Crighton Trophy winner was 15-of-17 passing for 180 yards and the TD.

Kelly was solid, completing nine-of-12 passes for 101 yards but the Elks outgained the Argos in the opening half (181 yards to 134) and registered more first downs (10 to nine).

McMahon scored on a two-yard run 13:03 before Kelly passed to Nield for the two-point convert, putting Toronto ahead 18-4. Faithfull’s 28-yard field goal at 5:46 pulled Edmonton to within 10-4.

Julien capped the opening quarter with a 68-yard punt single. Bede’s 24-yard field goal at 13:14 staked Toronto to a 10-0 advantage after Dukes opened the scoring with a one-yard TD run at 5:53.

The Canadian Press

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