B.C. Lions Improve Road Record to 5-1 as Richie Leone Hits game-winning Field Goal to Beat Toronto Argonauts
TORONTO — Richie Leone gave his critics and the Toronto Argonauts the boot Wednesday.
Leone converted all three field goals he attempted, including a 30-yard kick into a brisk wind as time expired to give the B.C. Lions an exciting 16-13 win over the Toronto Argonauts. That earned Leone the game ball and a measure of redemption as he’d made just 17-of-26 field goals (65.4 per cent) coming in.
“It (game ball) is something I’m going to treasure and remember for a while,” Leone said. “Coach (Wally Buono) challenged me this week, the guys challenged me this week because I have missed a couple of kicks.
“But at end of the day it was nice to have a win like this. If we’re going to have a couple more, then I’m going to need convert for this team.”
An enthusiastic BMO Field gathering of 17,509 — Toronto’s second-largest home crowd this season — was treated to a close, seesaw affair as both teams dealt with the steady 17 kilometre-an-hour wind in quarterback Ricky Ray’s return to the Argos lineup.
“It was tough,” said Leone, who averaged 50.5 yards on his six punts. “I think it died down towards the end of the game but it was definitely something to battle.
“I was just glad the offence got down there close enough so the wind didn’t matter.”
Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings tamed the blustery conditions when it mattered most, orchestrating a 61-yards, 10-play march into the wind to set up Leone’s deciding kick. Jennings finished 22-of-31 passing for 199 yards and an interception as B.C. (7-3) improved to 5-1 on the road and registered its first-ever sweep of games in Ontario after beating Ottawa 29-23 last week.
“It was a great night in the sense we won a game on the road and Richie answered some of the critics about being consistent,” Buono said. “I thought if there was a difference in the game it probably was him.
“This is what we talk about winning football, it’s about learning the game is over when there are zeros left on the clock.”
B.C.’s defence was also stellar, led by linebacker Solomon Elimimian. The CFL’s outstanding player in 2014 had a sack and interception to go with 13 tackles, giving him 34 in his last three games.
Elimimian had just the second interception of Ray this season, both coming off deflected passes. Ray returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing three starts with a knee injury and opened with 14 straight completions — including a 21-yard TD strike to Kevin Elliott on the Argos’ opening possession — before finishing 24-of-29 passing for 213 yards with a TD and pick.
“Obviously we came out and got off to a great start,” Ray said. “But we didn’t do enough the rest of the game.
“We felt good in the second half . . . then we got the wind in the fourth and had the advantage there. We just didn’t keep the drives going.”
Toronto (4-5) suffered its third straight home loss and fell to 1-5 at BMO Field heading into its Labour Day showdown in Hamilton.
“Nobody feels good that we’ve lost three in a row going into a back-to-back against our arch rivals,” Toronto coach Scott Milanovich said. “All you can ask for is to be in charge of our own destiny.
“We’re at the halfway point and we’re going to have to make some hay and it starts next week . . . the next two games are going to be critical.”
After visiting Hamilton on Labour Day, Toronto will host the Ticats at BMO Field on Sept. 11.
The Argos appeared poised to take the lead late against B.C. when Diontae Spencer’s 32-yard punt return put them at the Lions’ 30-yard line. But it was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Toronto ultimate punted, giving B.C. possession at its 26-yard line following Chris Rainey’s 18-yard punt return, setting up Jennings’ game-winning march with 3:32 remaining.
After winning the toss and deferring, B.C. surprisingly took the ball to open the second half. The move appeared to pay off huge when receiver Manny Arcenaux took a Jennings lateral but overthrew a wide-open Marco Ianuzzi in Argos territory.
Leone’s 47-yard field goal at 4:55 tied the scored 10-10 tie. B.C. had another glorious scoring chance when Eliminian’s interception and a Toronto facemask penalty put it at the Argos’ 14-yard line but the Lions settled for Leone’s 22-yard field goal at 10:22 for the 13-10 lead.
Toronto opened the fourth at the B.C. 12 but could only manage Lirim Hajrullahu’s 20-yard field goal 53 seconds in to make it 13-13. Hajrullahu finished with a convert and two field goals.
Anthony Allen scored B.C.’s touchdown. Leone added a single with his three field goals.