CFL Pass

Argonauts backup quarterbacks school Alouettes in pre-season opener

McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Mississauga native Brandon Bridge threw two touchdown passes apiece as the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Montreal Alouettes 45-20 in the CFL exhibition opener for both teams Thursday afternoon.

Bethel-Thompson helped stake Toronto to a commanding 20-0 first-quarter lead. The contest, which began at 11 a.m., was held at Varsity Stadium before 4,314 spectators, most being GTA schoolchildren who wildly waved the promotional blue towels they’d received.

The Argos called Varsity Stadium home from 1916 to 1958 and the venue has hosted 30 Grey Cup games.

Toronto and Montreal conclude their pre-season schedules next Thursday. The Argos visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats while the Als will host Ottawa.

Montreal opens its regular season in Edmonton on June 14 while Toronto kicks off its ’19 campaign hosting Hamilton on June 22.

Bridge put Toronto ahead 34-6 with a 79-yard TD strike to Rodney Smith on the Argos’ first offensive possession of the second half. The Argos played all six of the quarterbacks on their roster with starter James Franklin and Ottawa native Michael O’Connor accounting for the other touchdown passes.

O’Connor, a rookie from the University of British Columbia., threw a four-yard strike to Austin Cooper with 6:06 left to play.

Vernon Adams Jr. was the most productive of Montreal’s five quarterbacks, completing 8-of-17 passes for 116 yards with a TD and interception. He appeared to have a scoring strike to Richmond Nketiah in the third, but Nketiah fumbled while stretching out to break the plane and Toronto recovered and took over at its six-yard line.

Adams then hit Malcom Carter with an eight-yard touchdown pass in the fourth before Etienne Moisan returned a Dakota Prukop interception 31 yards for the touchdown. Adams found Chris Osei-Kusi on the two-point convert to cut Toronto’s lead to 37-18.

Jimmy Ralph, newcomer Derel Walker, S.J. Green and Llevi Noel scored Toronto’s other touchdowns. Drew Brown (one) and Tyler Crapigna (four) had the converts with Brown adding a field goal. Zack Medeiros booted a single.

Quarterback Matthew Shiltz had Montreal’s other touchdown.

Shiltz cut Toronto’s halftime advantage to 27-6 with an impressive 32-yard run. But the Alouettes were unsuccessful on the two-point convert with 3:47 remaining in the second.

Bridge’s five-yard strike to Noel boosted Toronto’s advantage to 27-0.

Bethel-Thompson capped a smart five-play, 52-yard scoring march with a four-yard pass to Green that put Toronto ahead 20-0. Earlier, Bethel-Thompson found Walker on an 11-yard touchdown pass.

Walker was the Argos’ biggest free-agent acquisition. The six-foot-two, 188-pound receiver was the CFL’s top rookie in 2015 with Edmonton and cracked the 1,000-yard plateau twice in four seasons.

Toronto opened the scoring in the first when a scrambling Franklin hit a wide-open Ralph on a 45-yard TD strike. Donald De La Haye missed the convert.