Running back Chad Kackert scores two TDs as Argonauts defeat Tiger-Cats 31-12

TORONTO – The starting quarterback job is up for grabs in Toronto. Both Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell look like they’re up for the task.

Lemon was solid in the first half and Bell was just as effective in the second half as the Argonauts defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-12 on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Toronto running back Chad Kackert scored two touchdowns in the CFL pre-season opener for both teams.

Lemon was 11-of-15 for 130 yards and one touchdown. Bell had similar numbers, going 9-of-15 for 189 yards and one touchdown.

“Either one of them can be the leader of this boat,” said veteran receiver Jeremaine Copeland. “I think it’s going to be a hard decision on the coaches.”

Lemon captured the starter’s job last season and helped guide Toronto to a 9-9 record and a win in the East Division semifinal. Bell, meanwhile, saw limited action after being acquired from Saskatchewan in March 2010.

“The thing that’s exciting for me is I feel we have two guys that our team has confidence in,” said head coach Jim Barker.

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Hamilton quarterback Jason Boltus took most of the snaps after relieving starter Quinton Porter after the first quarter. Boltus engineered a 14-play, 102-yard effort that was capped by an eight-yard TD strike to wide receiver Matt Carter at 7:16 of the fourth quarter.

Bell answered on Toronto’s next possession. He found James Robinson with a 45-yard catch and followed with a 16-yard TD pass to Jerome Hewitt at 8:54. Kackert put the game out of reach with a 15-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter.

“I have confidence in all of our receivers,” Bell said. “I don’t have any favourites out there, they all can make plays. I’m just trying to give them chances to make plays.”

Lemon said he feels more comfortable with the Toronto offence now that he has a full season with the team under his belt.

“Guys played fast, no indecision, and the result of it was guys making plays,” he said.

Boltus, who is competing with Porter for the backup job behind Kevin Glenn, had one touchdown pass and completed 27-of-35 passes for 281 yards with one interception.

“I feel like I played well overall,” Boltus said. “But the aim is to be better tomorrow and then improve the next day.”

Several top players were rested in the pre-season opener for both teams.

“Today is just part of the process,” said Hamilton coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “For us, what’s on the scoreboard isn’t the most important thing. It’s how you play and improve.”

It didn’t take long for the first appearance of rust. Hamilton’s Chris Williams dropped the opening kickoff before gathering the ball and scampering just five yards.

Porter looked sharp early on, firing a crisp 14-yard pass to Matt Carter and guided the Ticats on an 11-play drive that stalled shortly after entering Toronto territory. Hamilton kicker Justin Medlock opened the scoring with a 42-yard field goal at 4:41.

Copeland caught a 25-yard pass midway through the first quarter but the Argos couldn’t build on it. Lemon closed out the opening quarter with a 21-yard run.

At 1:03 of the second quarter, Lemon faked a handoff to Dwayne Wright and then found the running back with a short dump pass. Wright took advantage of some excellent blocking to run 26 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

On Toronto’s next drive, running back Andre Durie broke free for a 47-yard run to get the Argos deep into Hamilton territory. The 10-play, 97-yard drive was capped by a one-yard TD run from Kackert at 10:08.

“I feel like I left it all on the field, like I did what I could, which is a peaceful feeling,” Kackert said. “I don’t really have any regrets and just have to keep moving up from here.”

Toronto kick returner Curtis Walls almost padded the lead a few minutes later on a 105-yard kick return. His effort was called back due to a holding penalty. The Argonauts had a 14-3 lead at the half.

Bell entered the game at the start of the third quarter and promptly completed a couple of nice passes to wide receiver Spencer Watt. Bell later misfired on a couple of end-zone attempts and the Argos settled for a 22-yard field goal from Grant Shaw at 4:07.

Ticats running back Glenn Milner created a highlight-reel moment when he leapfrogged Matt Black when the Argos defensive back attempted a tackle. The rush led to a 36-yard field goal from Eric Wilbur at 4:26 to cut the Toronto lead to 11 points.

Toronto regularly aired the ball out with mixed results while Hamilton tried to keep things simple with short passing plays the norm. The Argonauts finished with 536 total yards, 119 more than their archrivals.

Both teams had 26 first downs and Hamilton gave up the lone turnover on an interception.

Only a fraction of the seats were filled in the cavernous domed stadium. Announced attendance was 12,851.

Notes: The Rogers Centre roof could not be opened despite glorious sunshine and warm temperatures outside. Cables were already hanging in place from the roof in preparation for next week’s International Indian Film Academy Awards. … Argonauts quarterbacks B.J. Hall and Danny Brannagan also recorded a few snaps. … The Ticats also finished with a 9-9 record last year. Hamilton posted three wins over Toronto to sweep the season series. The Argos beat the Ticats in the East semifinal before losing to Montreal in the division final. … Hamilton will close out the pre-season next Wednesday against the visiting Alouettes. The Argos play at Winnipeg on Thursday night.

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