For the first time since 2004, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have won their season opening game.
Hamilton dominated the first half en route to a 42-20 win over the Toronto Argonauts Thursday night at BMO Field.
The Cats opened the scoring after pinning the Argos deep in their end and forcing new Toronto kicker Lirim Hajrullahu to concede a safety 3:52 into the game.
After the ensuing kickoff, Jeremiah Masoli hit Andy Fantuz for a 39 yard touchdown, the first at Toronto’s new home, after the ball caromed off an Argos defensive back and into the hands of the veteran Canadian slotback.
Masoli also found Luke Tasker in the endzone but that touchdown was called back on a holding penalty.
Brett Maher followed up with his first field goal of the season, a 39 yarder, and then added field goals from 38 and 50 yards to extend the Cats’ lead to 18-0.
With 3:20 left to play in the first half, Hajrullahu nailed a 40 yard field goal to get the Argonauts on the board and drilled a 52 yard tri-fecta on the last play of the opening half to make it 18-6 for the Ticats.
Linebacker Simoni Lawrence had a monster first half with five defensive tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery and a pass knockdown, and continued his amazing play in the 3rd quarter with a 37 yard interception return for a touchdown to stretch Hamilton’s lead to 25-6.
After a defensive pass interference call against the Ticats, the ball was placed on the Hamilton 1 yard line.
One play later, Ricky Ray threw a post in the back corner of the endzone and found Vidal Hazelton for the touchdown, cutting Hamilton’s advantage to 25-13.
Brandon Banks then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Boatmen took over at the Hamilton 10 yard line.
Ray and Hazelton connected on a 10 yard major on the very next play as the Argos made it 25-20.
But the Cats stormed back down field, culminating with a Masoli to Brandon Banks 19 yard score with 58 seconds to play in the 3rd quarter and a 32-20 advantage.
Masoli hooked up with former Argos slotback Chad Owens, who made a diving catch in the endzone, on a 30 yard TD with 7:31 to go.
A scary incident about two minutes later when Argos safety Jermaine Gabriel was inadvertently hit by teammate Matt Black.
After a lengthy delay as doctors checked Gabriel, he was carried off the field on a stretcher, but not before flashing a thumbs up to the 24,812 fans in attendance at BMO Field.
Maher closed out the scoring with a 33 yard field goal.
Hamilton plays its home opener on Canada Day against the B.C. Lions.