TORONTO — Week 11 of league action comes to a close on Saturday night when the Toronto Argonauts play host to the Calgary Stampeders at BMO Field for their first of two games to help celebrate the Canadian National Exhibition this season.
Both teams are looking to rebound after suffering losses in Week 10. With a 34-27 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto dropped the second of a four game season series with their rival. While Calgary lost in heartbreaking fashion as the BC Lions stole a 41-40 victory.
When Toronto takes the field Saturday night they’ll do so without star running back Andrew Harris, who is reported to miss the remainder of the season after tearing a pectoral muscle in last week’s game.
Harris is a tough loss for the Boatmen offence, however it provides opportunity for young Toronto backs, A.J. Ouellette and Daniel Adeboboye.
Ouellette carried the ball 10 times for 47 yards in the loss to the Ticats, and in his three seasons with the Double Blue, he’s played in 12 games and totalled 314 yards on the ground.
Adeboboye is a newcomer to the Argos offence, as the team’s second-round selection in the 2022 CFL Draft. The young Argo running back has carried the ball three times this season for 10 yards, and has contributed with a handful of big special teams plays.
Without Harris, more pressure falls on quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the receiving corps. Bethel-Thompson threw for 287 yards and a touchdown a week ago, and did a good job of spreading the ball to his talented group of wideouts, finding seven different players for 20 or more yards.
Markeith Ambles, Kurleigh Gittens Jr, Brandon Banks and DaVaris Daniels will likely be the main targets for Bethel-Thompson, but the Stampeders can’t forget about Ouellette who has showed an ability to make a difference in the pass game. He caught three passes for 36 yards a week ago.
Signing with the Argos in the off season, Ambles has quickly made an impact in the Toronto passing game, leading the team with 48 targets, Ambles has caught 36 pass for 359 yards and a touchdown. His four receptions of 30 yards of longer also lead the group of Boatmen receivers.
In Week 10 Ambles lead all Toronto pass-catcher reeling in all five of his targets for 51 yards in the loss to Hamilton.
Approaching Saturday, Ambles tries to keep a clear mind heading into each game and the meeting with Calgary should be no different.
“I never expect anything,” Ambles told Argonauts.ca. “I just try to put my best foot forward. Whatever is on my plate I’m going to take advantage of it. That’s how I always look at it.”
Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie knows his team needs a better performance than the one they had against the Ticats if they hope to come away with a win against a tough West Division opponent in Calgary.
“We have to get better or we’ll get out butts kicked,” Dinwiddie told Argonauts.com. “We need to find a way to be more explosive on offence. We’re not running the football at all, we’re getting beat up front.”
With Bo Levi Mitchell having thrown just four interceptions in eight games, the Argos defensive secondary will be relied upon to limit big plays. It’s been a collective effort so far, with eight different players recording an interception.
After failing to throw a touchdown in his previous two starts, Mitchell responded in a big way against the Lions throwing for 206 yards and two touchdowns. The Stamps are hoping the offensive outburst carries into the game against the Argos.
Much like his counterpart Saturday night, Mitchell was also able to find production through multiple receivers. Shawn Bane Jr. and Jalen Philpot both brought in over 50 yards. With Philpot scoring his first career touchdown against the Lions.
If the Stamps find production from stars Kamar Jorden and Reggie Begelton, it should make for a long night for the Argos secondary.
Running back Ka’Deem Carey was limited earlier in the week in practice and will miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Dedrick Mills also missed some time in practice, but has been listed as the No.1 on the team’s depth chart. In Week 10 Mills rushed for 55 yards on seven carries.
As impressive as the 40 point outing was, the Stamps defence will need to find ways to limit the Toronto offence after surrendering 41, including 20 in the fourth quarter to BC a week ago.
Defensive lineman Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund will be relied upon to put pressure on Bethel-Thompson, recording his third sack of the season in Week 10.
Bethel-Thompson will have to keep an eye out for defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade who recorded his first interception of the season in Week 10. As a defensive unit, the Stamps have picked off 12 passes which ties them with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the most in the league.
Facing an athletic Argos receiving corps with plenty of playmakers, Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson knows how important defending the pass has become for his team’s success.
“We’ve been giving up a ton of yards, mostly through the air,” Dickenson told stampeders.com. “We have to tighten that up if we want to win. We need a win.”
Both the East and West Division races are heating up. Toronto is trying to stay ahead of Montreal and Hamilton with a win. Calgary is aiming to keep BC and Winnipeg in their sights heading into the second half of the season.