TORONTO — Zach Collaros threw two touchdown passes as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats earned a hard-fought 35-27 decision over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night for their first series sweep since 2010.
Hamilton (8-3) won all three meetings with Toronto, including a 42-12 decision Monday at Tim Hortons Field. The Ticats claimed the series opener 34-18 at Rogers Centre in August.
Toronto (6-5) suffered its first home loss in six games and third straight defeat overall to fall four points behind front-running Hamilton in the East Division. But after being decidedly outplayed in the first two meetings, the Argos were definitely game throughout Friday night’s contest.
In fact, Brandon Whitaker’s one-yard TD run — his second touchdown of the game — at 9:40 of the fourth cut Toronto’s deficit to 32-27. But Collaros marched Hamilton 58 yards on 11 plays to set up Justin Medlock’s 17-yard field goal at 13:48.
Trevor Harris took Toronto to the Hamilton 24-yard line but was intercepted by Emanuel Davis in the endzone on the game’s final play.
The loss was a costly one for Toronto as Stala had to replace kicker/punter Swayze Waters in the second half. There was no announcement regarding the nature of the ailment but Waters missed six games with a knee injury earlier this year.
He also tackled Hamilton’s Brandon Banks on a punt return earlier in the contest.
Stala had a punt partially blocked in the fourth quarter by David Caldwell that Adrian Tracy returned 19 yards to the Toronto 23-yard line. But Hamilton could only manage Medlock’s 41-yard field goal at 4:18 to increase its lead to 32-20.
Jeff Matthews’ one-yard TD run just 1:36 into the fourth quarter to put Hamilton ahead 29-20 after Harris’s 10-yard TD strike to Anthony Coombs at 13:02 of the third pulled Toronto to within 22-20.
Toronto opened the second half with Harris hitting Tori Gurley on a 42-yard touchdown pass at 3:58 to cut its deficit to 19-13. The Argos converted on third-and-eight and second-and-20 situations and with Waters ailing went for the two-point convert, which was unsuccessful.
Hamilton countered with Medlock’s 38-yard field goal at 7:42.
Matt Coates and Luke Tasker had Hamilton’s others touchdowns. Medlock added the converts and four field goals while the other points came on a safety.
Stala had two converts for Toronto while Waters added one.
Medlock’s 24-yard field goal at 13:23 of the second earned Hamilton a 19-7 half-time lead. The Ticats were much sharper Monday, scoring on their five possessions (three TDs, two field goals) en route to a commanding 27-1 half-time advantage.
And after not punting at all in the first half Monday, the Ticats had to kick three times Friday night, once more than Toronto.
Collaros found Tasker on a two-yard TD strike at 8:24 to put Hamilton ahead 16-7 after Toronto surrendered a safety earlier in the quarter to snap a 7-7 tie.
Hamilton opened the scoring on Collaros’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Coates at 5:12 of the first before Toronto countered with Whitaker’s three-yard TD run at 10:25.
NOTES — Offensive lineman Jarriel King and receiver Diontae Spencer didn’t dress for Toronto. Offensive lineman Joel Figueroa and receiver Robin Medeiros were Hamilton’s scratches . . . Toronto has a bye next week, returning to action Sept. 26 at Ottawa. Hamilton hosts Edmonton next Saturday.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press