Toronto Argonauts worth the wait winning season opener

Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson (4) throws the ball.(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson (4) throws the ball.(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports) /

After a 21-month layoff, the Toronto Argonauts started the 2021 season with a victory in Calgary.

The Toronto Argonauts started the year off with a victory Saturday night, defeating the Calgary Stampeders 23-20.

It was an exciting game to watch for Argos faithful, which saw an explosive, rejuvenated offence that looked like it hadn’t missed a week of play, let alone a 21-month layoff.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson looked sharp and efficient, throwing for over 350 yards and locking down a 70 per cent completion rate. He completed a pass to eight different Argos, and found the end- zone twice.

“He was pretty fluid tonight,” Coach Ryan Dinwiddie said post-game on his quarterback. “My main thing we focused on was no turnovers, and he did that.”

Bethel-Thompson protected the ball throughout an ebb-and-flow game that saw the Argos jump out to an early lead, only to sputter in the middle frames. They closed the game with an 11-point quarter to take the win.

While coach Dinwiddie was quick to point to the fact that all three phases of the game contributed to the victory, it’s impossible not to look at the offense, given Dinwiddie’s background and past credentials.

It’s no secret Dinwiddie was hired for his offensive pedigree, as the quarterback whisperer was Bo Levi Mitchell’s QB coach for both of his MOP seasons. Dinwiddie’s hands on approach was noticeable on the sidelines, and its got his quarterback and offense excited.

“It’s a real challenge keeping up with him.” Bethel-Thompson said, on his new coach. “He’s got so many ideas, and is so offensive minded – it’s fun.”

For Bethel-Thompson, it was important for the team to battle through the middle frame – and he liked what he saw from his team. “We found out we had heart today. It was good [for the team].”

Coach Dinwiddie echoed that sentiment. “It wasn’t a clean game by any means, but we got it done.”

That expectation-dampening coach speak shouldn’t dissuade Argo fans from feeling positive about what they saw tonight. The two most recent Argo campaigns were an identical 4-14, and one of the disturbing similarities between those two troubled campaigns was how long it took for the boatmen to secure their first win. It took until week 4 for the 2018 Argos to get in the win column; in 2019, it took until Week 7. Toronto dug itself a hole early, and ultimately were unable to dig themselves out.

It was important in this shortened season to not do that, especially with a back-to-back coming up next with the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers. No matter what happens in those games, Toronto already have that win.

True to his role, Coach Dinwiddie is already “on to Winnipeg.”

“We should enjoy the night, but tomorrow, it’s on to next week.” He said, when asked on his celebration plans after his first career head coaching win. “We got a good team in six days. We need to be ready.”

The Argos will play the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg, Friday.