OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks know that in the grand scheme of things pre-season doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it can help build character and culture.
On Friday night, the Redblacks showed that no matter the score they'll play to the end and were rewarded as they overcame a 10-point deficit to beat the Toronto Argonauts 23-17 at TD Place.
Quarterback Tyrie Adams went from being the goat to the game’s hero in his first CFL appearance.
Adams went 6 for 9 for 68 yards with one interception, one passing and one rushing touchdown.
Antonio Pipkin got the start at quarterback for the Argos, going 7 for 9 for 60 yards and one interception while sharing the workload with Chad Kelly, who went 7 for 12 for 78 yards. Austin Simmons also got in on the action, finishing 2 for 5 for 19 yards.
The Redblacks held a 7-3 lead at the half, but struggled to generate momentum in the second half until the final minute.
The Argos took a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter as Javon Leake ran in a four-yard touchdown and Toshiki Sato added the convert.
Trailing 10-7 to start the fourth quarter Adams threw an interception that was ran back for 58 yards by Jamal Peters. Sato added the extra point to give the Argos a 17-7 lead.
Adams was determined to turn things around and connected with R.J. Harris for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-14 with five minutes remaining.
The Redblacks defence pinned the Argos and forced them to concede a safety to make it a one-point game with 1:21 remaining.
Adams showed poise as he drove the Redblacks down field and ultimately punched in a one-yard touchdown for the win.
“Not only was I excited for that, but on those last two drives the offensive line blocked their butts off,” said Adams. “You could see some of the pain in their eyes going on that last drive … all I did was call the play coach told me to call and then hand the ball off, really.”
At the time Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie felt he made the right decision in conceding the safety. He anticipated his defence shutting the Redblacks down, but in the end it proved to be a costly misjudgment.
“We did some decent things and we didn’t do other things so well,” said Dinwiddie. “We couldn’t get the right players on the field at the end.”
Dinwiddie admitted there was some confusion on the field and the sidelines and said both coaches and players had a hand in how things finished.
“It was a good learning experience for all of us and we’ll be better next week.”
The newly acquired Jeremiah Masoli made his first appearance with the Redblacks and finished 8 for 11 for 105 yards and one touchdown in his Ottawa debut.
Ottawa got on the board first early in the first quarter with a single. Wide receiver Jaelon Acklin hauled in a touchdown pass from Masoli early in the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead as Lewis Ward missed the convert.
Ottawa stopped the Argos deep in their own end in the final minute of the half and forced Toronto to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Sato.
Masoli knows the X’s and O’s will fall into place and so this was more about building the right culture, a winning culture.
“We were all engaged on the sideline,” said Masoli, who played the early part of the game. “It wasn’t like some guys were just waiting for the game to be over. We were tuned in … it was good to see us doing it together, a full team effort.
“I think it’s a great starting point to establish that winning culture around here.”
This marked the first pre-season game for Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice since he was hired back in 2019. After a 3-11 season last year there was significant turnover on the field, but also on the coaching staff and LaPolice admitted the pre-season is just as important for his staff as it is the players.
“I have some young coaches, so for me to be able to have that opportunity to go through that, you can’t simulate game stuff,” said LaPolice. “So whether at the end-of-the-game scenarios or talking to the coaches to help me with personnel movements and all those things, it’s a good thing.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press