Festive football in the valley: Argos and Riders praise the CFL’s first regular season game in Nova Scotia

Bring in the Atlantic schooners.

If Saturday’s Touchdown Atlantic game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts in Wolfville was any indication – and if it’s the atmosphere that’s being sold to the public – then the CFL regular season opener held on Nova Scotian soil scored a touchdown for hungry pro football fans in that region.

Of course, before a 10th CFL team is assigned to the East Coast – and there’s been talk of a franchise (named the Schooners) for 40 years – a stadium has to be built. In the meantime, those fans had to make do with temporarily constructed bleachers at Raymond Field, which increased seating capacity to around 10,000. Hundreds more lined up at each end zone and the 10,886 people in attendance, many wearing Rider green, were treated to an entertaining game and festive environment.

“It was awesome, it was awesome,” said Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, whose team cruised to a 30-24 win thanks to a pick of Wynton McManis with 2:06 left in the game. fourth quarter.

“It’s almost like going bowling in college. You’re here for a few days and the guys are going out to dinner and seeing each other. And Riders fans travel like they always do. I thought it was a great environment. We would love to come here more.

“We had a lot of fun,” added Henoc Muamba of the Argos, who spent four college seasons in Nova Scotia as a cross-country linebacker with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

“It was an incredible atmosphere on the east coast. Atlantic Canada really impressed us. I had a lot of fun.”

Saskatchewan Roughriders players pose for photos on the sidelines as they celebrate a fourth quarter touchdown against the Toronto Argonauts during Saturday afternoon’s CFL game at Raymond Field in Wolfville on July 16, 2022. The Argos came from behind to win the game 30-24. Ryan Taplin – The Herald of the Chronicle

With his team trailing 24-22, McManis returned a 50-yard interception for a touchdown to rally the Argonauts. The Memphis linebacker cruised past Riders quarterback Cody Fajardo’s pass and ran untouched to the end zone.

Toronto went for the two-point conversion and Argos center McLeod Bethel-Thompson found Brandon Banks in the end zone to give his team a 30-24 lead.

“Our lads responded at the end,” said Dinwiddie, whose club leveled their record at 2-2. “Wynton put us on our backs and made that play and then we got the two-point play and found a way to get the win.

Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Markeith Ambles is knocked out by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive backs Jeremy Clark and Jayden Dalke during the first half of the Touchdown Atlantic CFL game on Saturday afternoon at Raymond Field in Wolfville.  - RYAN TAPLIN / THE HERALD OF THE CHRONICLE
Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Markeith Ambles is knocked out by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive backs Jeremy Clark and Jayden Dalke during the first half of the Touchdown Atlantic CFL game on Saturday afternoon at Raymond Field in Wolfville. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE HERALD OF THE CHRONICLE

“After not having much success inside, I was like, ‘Shoot, we’re going to have to throw the ball all game to win it. “”

“It’s unfortunate to throw a pick-six when you’re (par) three,” a dejected Fajardo said. “I would like to get this back. Interceptions are going to happen in a game but I put my team in a bad position there. I wish I had that one back.

A Boris Bede basket with no time left on the clock gave the Argos a 17-14 halftime advantage. Bede threw another 41 yards midway through the third quarter and a single run early in the fourth gave Toronto a 21-14 lead.

Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker dives for a pass as Toronto Argonauts defensive back Shaq Richardson defends during Saturday afternoon's CFL game at Raymond Field of Wolfville on July 16, 2022. The Argos came from behind to win the game 30 -24.  Ryan Taplin - The Herald of the Chronicle
Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker dives for a pass as Toronto Argonauts defensive back Shaq Richardson defends during Saturday afternoon’s CFL game at Raymond Field of Wolfville on July 16, 2022. The Argos came from behind to win the game 30 -24. Ryan Taplin – The Herald of the Chronicle

Saskatchewan (4-2) tied the game at 21 all on a 32-yard pass from Fajardo to Duke Williams and took a three-way lead on Brett Lauther’s 31-yard field goal with 4:41 left.

Lauther, 31, from Truro, had three field goals, two converts and a single on his return to his home province.

The game was a choppy affair with a total of 25 penalties called for a total of 285 yards.

Toronto Argonauts fans celebrate as time runs out in the fourth quarter during the CFL game on Saturday afternoon at Raymond Field in Wolfville on July 16, 2022. The Argos came from behind to win the game 30-24.  Ryan Taplin - The Herald of the Chronicle
Toronto Argonauts fans celebrate as time runs out in the fourth quarter during the CFL game on Saturday afternoon at Raymond Field in Wolfville on July 16, 2022. The Argos came from behind to win the game 30-24. Ryan Taplin – The Herald of the Chronicle

In the pregame warmup, Saskatchewan’s Duke Williams and Toronto’s Shaq Richardson squared off. Video showed Williams grabbing Richardson’s helmet and throwing it at him.

“How is this not the dirtiest piece I have played?” Dinwiddie asked rhetorically. “How was he not expelled for throwing a helmet at another man’s head?

“Football is a violent game, it’s a physical game. Sometimes you have these chirps that happen afterwards. But it has to be cleaner than that.

“It’s hard to win in this league and we can’t take so many penalties,” added Muamba. “It’s about staying balanced, moving forward. We need to lock down and focus on getting a win without the extra-curricular stuff.

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Blace Brown intercepts the ball past Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. during the second half of the Touchdown Atlantic CFL game Saturday afternoon at Raymond Field in Wolfville.  - RYAN TAPLIN / THE HERALD OF THE CHRONICLE
Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Blace Brown intercepts the ball past Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. during the second half of the Touchdown Atlantic CFL game Saturday afternoon at Raymond Field in Wolfville. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE HERALD OF THE CHRONICLE

Despite the loss, the Riders were also impressed with what the East Coast football fans brought to the balmy afternoon in the Valley,

Saskatchewan linebacker Derrick Moncrief waved to fans as he left Raymond Field.

“It was a great vibe, I loved every bit of it,” Moncrief said. “I will definitely come back here. I like water, I like seafood. We tried to enjoy Halifax but came on a business trip. We have to come at our own pace.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and a lot of guys in this locker room,” Fajardo added. “I don’t think I would ever be here without the CFL. I am very grateful for that.

Remarks: Gregor MacKellar of Timberlea, a former standout offensive lineman for St. FX, was on the Argos roster. He was Toronto’s first-round pick, sixth overall, in the 2022 CFL Draft. … Argos running back Andrew Harris moved Hall of Fame receiver Milt Stegall to fourth all-time in scrimmage yards. … The teams will meet again next Saturday in Regina.

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