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Leake's club-record fourth punt-return TD rallies Argos past Stampeders 39-31

TORONTO — Javon Leake secured a piece of franchise history and helped the Toronto Argonauts avenge their only loss of the season.
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly (12) protects the ball from Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Julian Howsare (95) during first half CFL football action in Toronto on Friday, August 25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Javon Leake secured a piece of franchise history and helped the Toronto Argonauts avenge their only loss of the season.

Leake's club-record fourth punt-return touchdown earned Toronto a shootout 39-31 win over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night. Leake's 86-yard return at 7:19 of the fourth quarter snapped a 31-31 tie.

He entered the contest tied with Jimmy Cunningham (1995) and Bashir Levingston (2003) for most punt-return TDs in team history.

"It's crazy, man, it's a blessing," Leake said. "We kept running field all game so we kind of had a boundary call on that one.

"The whole team was to the field side and there was one guy who went inside on the boundary and it was wide open. The punt-return team took care of the punter and the rest was good."

When Leake tied the club record, he gave the ball to a fan. This one, though, was in his locker as he spoke to reporters.

"I had to keep this one, it was the record-setting ball," he said. "I'll probably give it to my mom.

"I couldn't give this one away."

Toronto (8-1) avenged its lone loss of the season, a 20-7 decision in Calgary on Aug. 4. The Argos remain atop the East Division, four points ahead of the second-place Montreal Alouettes (6-4).

"That was big for (Leake)," Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. "I told him he was part of Argos history, which is what we talk about. 

"You want have your name engraved, you want to have a legacy. It was key (in the game) because it was kind of a stalemate on both sides of the ball and it just gave us energy and an opportunity to go up by seven."

In the first meeting, Calgary ran for 168 yards on 36 carries (4.7-yard average). On Friday night, Toronto held the Stampeders to 59 yards rushing although quarterback Jake Maier was 25-of-42 passing for 384 yards and four TDs while receiver Reggie Begelton had nine receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

"Our team has a lot of fight," said Calgary head coach, and general manager, Dave Dickenson. "We had some chances again and then too many big plays given up … the punt return was the back-breaker."

Toronto quarterback Chad Kelly finished 20-of-31 passing for 360 yards and three TDs with two interceptions. He also ran for another as Toronto claimed a sixth straight win coming off a bye week.

With the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in full swing outside BMO Field, a season-high gathering of 17,906 was treated to a high-flying, offensive show with plenty of fireworks. Both teams had over 400 yards of net offence — 475 for Toronto, 423 for Calgary — and were very efficient on second-down conversions. Toronto was 11-for-21; Calgary converted on 12-of-26 opportunities.

Toronto had the lone three sacks of the contest, with Folarin Orimolade, a former Stamp, getting two. But the Argos also turned the ball over twice and was penalized seven times for 70 yards while Calgary had four penalties for 40 yards.

"Winning hides deficiencies," Dinwiddie said. "There's some things we have to get better at, a lot of things to be honest with you.

"We're finding ways to win games but there's some things we have to clean up. I think we've had a holding on a second-and-long conversion almost every game."

Andrew Harris, Damonte Coxie and DaVaris Daniels scored Toronto's other touchdowns. Boris Bede added the converts, a field goal and single.

Marken Michel and Luther Hakunavanhu had Calgary's other touchdowns. Rene Paredes booted the converts and a field goal.

Kelly put Toronto ahead 31-28 with a 54-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker to Daniels at 5:08 of the third. But Parades made it 31-31 with a 27-yard field goal at 14:45 as the Argos also lost safety Josh Haggerty to injury.

Haggerty came on in the second quarter when veteran DaShaun Amos (ankle) was carted off and Royce Metchie moved to halfback. With Haggerty out, Canadian rookie Jonathan Edouard went to halfback and Metchie returned to safety.

Dinwiddie said the loss of Amos was a big one for Toronto.

"It's tough, he's one of our brothers but it's football and the nature of the business," Dinwiddie said. "I thought we got deflated a little bit when that happened. 

"You could tell the energy wasn't there and that's natural."

Maier's 47-yard touchdown pass to Begelton at 1:59 of the third put Calgary up 28-24.

Kelly capped a back-and-forth second quarter with a 67-yard touchdown pass to Coxie at 14:06 that earned Toronto its 24-21 halftime lead. The two teams combined for 38 points in the quarter alone.

Coxie, who rejoined Toronto off the injured list, had 102 yards on three catches in the opening half.

Maier was 13-of-21 passing for 207 yards and three TDs.

Maier's 39-yard touchdown pass to Begelton at 14:06 put Calgary ahead 21-17 at 14:06. Bede's 39-yard boot at 12:37 gave Toronto a 17-14 advantage..

Maier's 18-yard touchdown pass to Hakunavanhu at 10:23 tied the score 14-14. It came right after Toronto received a defensive procedure call on Parades' 31-yard field goal try that instead gave Calgary a first down at the Argos' 18.

Maier got Calgary on the board with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Michel at 6:08, cutting Toronto's advantage to 14-7.

Kelly's one-yard TD run at 4:51 to put Toronto ahead 14-0. Harris opened the scoring with a nine-yard TD grab at 9:26 of the first.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press