July 19th, 2024

Lirim Hajrullahu’s late field goal earns Argos 39-36 home win over winless Elks

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on June 22, 2024.

Toronto Argonauts running back Ka'Deem Carey (25) runs the ball against Edmonton Elks defensive lineman Sam Acheampong, right, and defensive back Devodric Bynum (16) during first half CFL football action in Toronto, Saturday, June 22, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO – Lirim Hajrullahu’s 37-yard field goal earned the Toronto Argonauts an entertaining 39-36 win over the Edmonton Elks on Saturday night.

Hajrullahu’s boot came after Janarion Grant’s 17-yard punt return. Edmonton (0-3) had the ball at its five-yard line with roughly 1:20 remaining but following two incompletions, the Elks had to punt and Toronto set up at the visitors’ 45-yard line.

It was another solid effort from Toronto starter Cameron Dukes, who was 18-of-21 passing for 214 yards and two TDs. He also ran for a touchdown and a two-point convert.

But the real story was Toronto’s ground game. The Argos ran for 186 yards on 29 attempts with three touchdowns.

The loss spoiled a BMO Field return for McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The former Argos quarterback was 28-of-38 passing for 342 yards and four TDs before an announced gathering of 10,857.

Edmonton didn’t do itself any favours when rookie Joel Dublanko was flagged late in the fourth for contacting Toronto punter John Haggerty. That allowed Toronto to maintain possession and take time off the clock.

Dakota Prukop’s one-yard TD run at 11:10 tied the score 36-36. Edmonton got the ball at the Toronto two-yard line after a review deemed pass interference on Toronto’s DaShaun Amos.

Dukes’s 36-yard TD to Damonte Coxie at 5:25 of the fourth staked Toronto to a 36-29. It capped an emphatic six-play, 84-yard drive.

Bethel-Thompson spent five seasons with Toronto (2017-19, 21-22) and was part of two Grey Cup-winning teams. He led the CFL in passing in 2022 before spending the ’23 campaign with the USFL’s Boston Breakers.

Bethel-Thompson signed a one-year deal with Edmonton during the off-season.

Bethel-Thompson was among seven former Argos in Edmonton’s lineup. The others were Prukop, receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr., offensive lineman Shane Richards, defensive lineman Sam Acheampong, kicker Boris Bede, returner Javon Leake and defensive back Josh Hagerty.

Toronto defensive lineman Jake Ceresna (three tackles, sack) faced his former team for the first time since being traded to Toronto in the off-season, a deal that saw Gittens head to Edmonton.

The win was Toronto’s 11th straight at home and the club improved to 6-0 coming off a bye.

Dillon Mitchell, Eugene Lewis, Hergy Mayala and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. had Edmonton’s other touchdowns. Bede added the converts while Jake Julien had a single.

Deonta McMahon, Rasheed Bailey and Ka’Deem Carey scored Toronto’s other touchdowns. Hajrullahu booted four converts and the field goal.

Bethel-Thompson’s eight-yard TD pass to Gittens Jr. at 2:18 of the fourth tied the score 29-29. It came two plays after Bethel-Thompson appeared to hit Mitchell on a 71-yard TD strike but the replay centre deemed he was down by contact at the Toronto 35-yard line.

Carey and Dukes combined to put Toronto ahead 29-22 at 12:54 of the third. Carey scored on a four-run run before Dukes added the two-point conversion to complete an eight-play, 89-yard march.

Mayala’s 10-yard TD grab at 7:04 of the third put Edmonton ahead 22-21. It was set up by Loucheiz Purifoy’s interception of McMahon’s option pass and 18-yard return to the Toronto 23-yard line.

Julien’s 60-yard punt single at 13:04 of the second cut Toronto’s halftime lead to 21-15 as the two offences were effective in different ways. The Argos rolled up 109 rushing yards and two TDs on 14 attempts while the Elks’ aerial attack accumulated 186 yards with two TDs.

Bethel-Thompson completed 15-of-20 passes but Edmonton’s offence mustered just 20 rushing yards on five attempts.

Dukes was a tidy nine-of-10 passing for 92 yards and a TD but it was the ground game that carried Toronto in the opening half. And Dukes put the Argos ahead 21-14 with a seven-yard run at 11:29.

The 69-yard, 11-play drive included a successful challenge of pass interference on Edmonton’s Devodric Bynum that moved the ball 21 yards to the Elks’ 18-yard line.

Bailey made it 14-14 with a 21-yard TD grab at 4:06.

McMahon tied the score 7-7 with a 44-yard TD run at 11:06 of the first. But Bethel-Thompson found Lewis on a six-yard touchdown pass at 14:53 to cap a 79-yard, seven play drive.

Edmonton opened the scoring on Bethel-Thompson’s 30-yard TD pass to Dillion at 5:07. It followed Leake’s 27-yard punt return to the Toronto 49-yard line.

UP NEXT

Elks: Head to Vancouver to play the B.C. Lions (2-1) on Thursday.

Argonauts: Host the unbeaten Montreal Alouettes (3-0) on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2024.

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