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Dukes throws three TDs, rushes for another to lead Argos past Lions


TORONTO — Cameron Dukes used his right arm and legs to make his first CFL home start a victorious one.

Dukes threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to lead the Toronto Argonauts past the B.C. Lions 35-27 on Sunday night in the season opener for both teams. Dukes made his third career start but first at BMO Field and the second-year pro said nerves weren't an issue.

"I feel like the only time I'm not nervous in my life is when I'm playing football," he said. "I get away from everything mentally and I just get out here and play the game I love.

"You've got guys around you who trust you and you have a coaching staff that trusts you. That takes the nerves away from it."

The Argos are Dukes' team at least through the first half of the season. Incumbent Chad Kelly, the CFL's outstanding player last season, was suspended for both of Toronto's pre-season contests and at least its first nine regular-season games for violating the league's gender-based violence policy.

The six-foot-one, 205-pound Dukes finished 21-of-27 passing for 254 yards in leading Toronto (1-0) to a fourth straight home victory over B.C. (0-1). But he also lost a fumble that defensive lineman Tibo Debaillie returned 20 yards for the TD that put the Lions ahead 20-6 at 6:56 of the second quarter.

"I tried to do too much on that play and I hurt our team," Dukes said. "Luckily we were able to pull it out at the end but that's something I've got to get fixed."

John Haggerty's stellar 60-yard punt put B.C. at its 10-yard line with 2:04 remaining. The Lions turned the ball over on downs at their one-yard line with 1:25 to play, delighting the BMO Field gathering of 12,767.

Dukes' one-yard TD run at 13:38 put Toronto ahead 35-27. B.C. turned the ball over — their fifth in the game — a final time on downs with 48 seconds remaining.

"We're going to make mistakes, all of us," Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. "I thought (Dukes) bounced back (after his fumble) and made the plays we needed to make to win the game.

"We put ourself in a bad spot there in the second quarter but you sure saw the character of that locker room … we found a way to win this game."

Vernon Adams Jr. drove B.C. to the Toronto 31-yard line with under four minutes remaining. But the veteran quarterback fumbled after being hit hard by Argos defensive lineman Jake Ceresna. Tackle Jordan Williams recovered.

Sean Whyte's 51-yard field goal at 4:00 earned B.C. a 27-26 advantage. But Lirim Hajrullahu converted from 38 yards out at 7:46 to put Toronto ahead 29-27.

Adams finished 25-of-33 passing for 363 yards with two touchdowns. But he also had an interception, fumbled twice and was sacked six times as Toronto outscored B.C. 19-7 in the second half.

"It's the first game of the season but it was something with us last year where we need to come out a little faster in the second half, in the third quarter," Adams said. "Ultimately, at the end of the day as a quarterback I've got to take care of the ball.

"I had too many fumbles and an interception so if I take care of the ball I think we're in a better spot at winning the game. It's the first one of the season and all we can do is get better."

Added Dinwiddie: "Our difference-maker was our front seven. I thought they did a great job, got after the quarterback. That was a very impressive defensive performance in the second half."

Ka'Deem Carey, Rasheed Bailey and Dejon Brissett had Toronto's touchdowns. Hajrullahu added two converts and three field goals.

Justin McInnis and Travis Fulgham scored B.C.'s other touchdowns. Whyte finished with two converts and two field goals while Stefan Flintoft had a single.

Brissett's 26-yard TD grab put Toronto ahead 23-20 at 3:15 of the third. Whyte's 36-yard boot at 6:35 tied the score before Hajrullahu made it 26-23 with a 34-yard field goal at 11:10. Flintoft's 42-yard single at 14:38 cut the Argos' lead to 26-24.

Adams was 11-of-12 passing for 171 yards and two TDs in the first half, his lone incompletion was an interception. He also ran for a team-high 25 yards on eight carries.

Dukes completed 11-of-14 attempts for 183 yards and two touchdowns in the opening half.

Adams anchored B.C.'s 20-point second quarter with his two scoring strikes. He put the Lions ahead 13-6, hitting a wide-open Fulgham on a 50-yard toss at 6:04.

It came after Adams found McInnis on a 29-yard TD pass at 2:56 to make it 6-6. The snap on the convert attempt was fumbled.

Dukes' eight-yard TD strike to Carey at 13:57 of the first opened the scoring. It capped a smart 10-play, 84-yard march but the convert was unsuccessful.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2024.