November 26, 2017 7:34 pm
Updated: November 27, 2017 6:39 am

Toronto Argonauts win Grey Cup with 27-24 victory over Calgary Stampeders

Toronto Argos' Ricky Ray talks about the team's victory and what it means to him.

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Lirim Hajrullahu dealt the Calgary Stampeders another stunning Grey Cup defeat.

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Hajrullahu’s 32-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining earned the Toronto Argonauts a stunning 27-24 win over Calgary on a snowy Sunday night. It marked the second straight year the Stampeders had posted a CFL-best record during the regular season, only to be upset in the biggest game of the year.

Calgary, which registered a 15-2-1 record in 2016, dropped a stunning 39-33 overtime decision last year to an Ottawa Redblacks team that finished the regular season with an 8-9-1 mark. The Stampeders had a 13-4-1 record this year while Toronto finished atop the East Division at 9-9.

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Toronto won its CFL-best 17th Grey Cup, and its first since beating Calgary 35-22 in 2012 at Rogers Centre.

Calgary looked poised to at least force overtime before veteran Matt Black intercepted Bo Levi Mitchell in the end zone with eight seconds left before a TD Place Stadium sellout of 36,154. Among those braving the elements were CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who sat together.

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Toronto used the big play to earn its first Grey Cup win in five years, which ironically against Calgary at Rogers Centre. The Argos pulled even 26-26 at 10:25 on Cassius Vaughn’s 110-yard fumble recovery TD and Declan Cross’s two-point convert, stunning the TD Place Stadium sellout of 36,154.

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In the first half, Ricky Ray hit DeVier Posey on a Cup-record 100-yard TD strike against a Calgary team that had beaten Toronto eight straight games. Ray set another record by winning his fourth Grey Cup as a starting quarterback.

Posey, with 102 yards on seven receptions, was named the game’s most valuable player.

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The white stuff start falling roughly two hours before kickoff, lightly at first before steadily increasing. Toronto running back James Wilder Jr., the CFL’s top rookie and a Tampa native, was undeterred as he did pre-game laps on the field shirtless as the game-time temperature was -3 C.

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The weather forced the cancellation of the pre-game flyover of two CF-18 Hornets. During each play stoppage stadium employees shovelled the yard lines while two snow plows cleared the hash marks.

At halftime, two full-sized plows helped clear the field prior to country star Shania Twain’s performance. The multiple Grammy Award winner arrived on a dog sled before starting her snowy three-song set with “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” which could’ve easily been directed towards Toronto’s offence in the opening half.

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The winter wonderland evoked memories of the ’96 Snow Bowl in Hamilton, a game that saw Toronto beat Edmonton 43-37 in blizzard-like conditions. On the second play from scrimmage, Argos’ defensive tackle Cleyon Laing did a belly slide after sacking Mitchell.

A play later, Toronto’s Armanti Edwards fumbled a punt that teammate Marcus Ball recovered as Calgary handled the snowy conditions much better in surging to a 17-8 half-time lead.

The snow tailed off to start the second half and Toronto, reportedly changing its footwear, responded with an eight-play, 71-yard scoring march capped by Wilder’s two-yard TD run and another Cross two-point convert at 4:09 that cut Calgary’s lead to 17-16.

But the Stampeders countered with Mitchell’s six-yard TD pass to Jerome Messam at 8:56 – following a successful pass interference challenge – to go back ahead 24-16.

Messam, with two, and Kamar Jorden had Calgary’s touchdowns. DaVaris Daniels added a two-point convert while Rene Paredes booted a field goal and convert.

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The other Toronto points came on a safety.

Paredes’ 39-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter gave Calgary its 17-8 halftime lead. It came after Juwan Brescacin recovered his own fumble at the Toronto 50-yard line to keep the drive alive.

But Calgary’s lead came largely thanks to its CFL-best defence. The unit allowed 135 first-half yards, 100 coming on Ray’s Cup-record TD toss to Posey in the second.

Calgary’s offence fared better, rushing for 52 yards (5.8-yard average) and 212 offensive yards while holding the ball for 18 minutes.

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Toronto pulled to within 14-8 at 9:41 when Calgary punter Rob Maver booted the ball through the end zone following a high snap. Messam’s six-yard TD run at 4:52 capped a smart seven-play, 67-yard drive that Daniels finished with a two-point convert, putting the Stampeders ahead 14-6.

Ray’s TD pass to Posey 26 seconds into the second tied the score 6-6. That broke the previous mark of ’99 yards set by Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo and Pat Woodcock in ’02. The convert was wide.

Calgary opened the scoring with Mitchell’s 33-yard TD strike to Jorden on a third-and-three gamble at 11:28 of the first. The two-point convert was unsuccessful.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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