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Cole Watson's touchdown catch earns Argos exhibition win over Ticats

HAMILTON — Cole Watson is hoping the third time is the charm. Watson's diving TD catch at 7:08 of the fourth quarter led the Toronto Argonauts to a 30-23 exhibition win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night.

HAMILTON — Cole Watson is hoping the third time is the charm.

Watson's diving TD catch at 7:08 of the fourth quarter led the Toronto Argonauts to a 30-23 exhibition win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night. Watson stretched out to make a finger-tip grab of Dakota Prukop's pass to cap an eight-play, 77-yard march and erase a 23-20 deficit.

The six-foot, 185-pound Watson landed at the two-yard line, then slide into the end zone.

"The turf helped me, for sure," he said. "That was my first professional touchdown.

"I'm happy I scored and was able to help my team get the lead. It was a great moment."

Watson, who had two catches for 52 yards, is in his third camp with Toronto. The previous two times he battled injuries but has remained healthy this time around, hopeful he's given the Argos much to think about heading into CFL roster deadline of 10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

"Dakota and I talk about it all the time, just control what you can control," Watson said. "I just try to make the most of my opportunities.

"Whenever I can do something to better myself and help the team, I do it and just leave the rest in the hands of the decision makers."

Donald De La Haye's 16-yard field goal at 13:27 put Toronto (2-0) ahead 30-23 at Tim Hortons Field. Frankie Williams' 58-yard kickoff return put Hamilton (1-1) at the Argos' 43-yard line with 1:22 remaining but Hayden Moore's third-down completion was three yards short of a first down with 44 seconds to play.

Lirim Hajrullahu's 43-yard field goal at 5:55 of the third put Hamilton ahead 23-20.

Hamilton kicks off the '19 regular season hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday night. Toronto opens its campaign at BMO Field against the Ticats on June 22.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson started for Toronto as incumbent James Franklin didn't dress. Bethel-Thompson completed 11-of-17 passes for 222 yards and a TD in the first half, playing all but two snaps — taken by Canadian rookie Michael O'Connor — before Brandon Bridge of Mississauga, Ont., opened the third.

Bridge was 4-of-8 passing for 40 yards with an interception as Prukop started the fourth. Bethel-Thompson, in his third CFL season, has completed 17-of-24 passes for 353 yards and three TDs in two exhibition games.

"It's good to have a third year up here and learn the Canadian game and see things better," Bethel-Thompson said. "I felt a little jittery at the beginning but things smoothed out.

"It's been a good camp and I'm really enjoying the offence. Top to bottom, we have a lot of great players."

Toronto head coach Corey Chamblin said Franklin remains the starter but Bethel-Thompson gives the Argos a valuable 1-2 punch under centre.

"We have two guys who are growing in this system," he said. "Hopefully we never need to see both of them but that's pro football.

"The more quarterbacks you have the better opportunity you have to reach that final stage in this game. We have along way to go as a football team . . .but the stock I put in it is we came out 1-0 this week and that's our goal each and every week."

Jeremiah Masoli started for Hamilton in his first exhibition action. The East Division's outstanding player last season was 17-of-26 passing for 154 yards and a TD while scoring another in the first half.

Backup Dane Evans started the third and completed 8-of-11 passes for 87 yards before Moore took over in the fourth. 

"Every time you take to the field you want to win the football game," said Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer. "This is about evaluation and seeing what you have but credit Toronto, they made less mistakes and that was the bottom line.

"I thought we did a lot of good things and got a lot of good evaluation, a lot of positives to take."

Steinauer also praised Masoli's play.

"I thought we protected the quarterback well and Jeremiah made some wise decisions with the football," he said. "I was very pleased (with Ticats offence) but am definitely not satisfied."

Bralon Addison had Hamilton's other touchdown. Hajrullahu booted the converts and three field goals.

James Wilder Jr. and Derel Walker scored Toronto's touchdowns. Zack Medeiros kicked a convert, Drew Brown added two field goals and De La Haye also had a single.

Brown's 12-yard field goal at 14:14 of the second made it 20-20 at halftime. It came after Bethel-Thompson's 75-yard TD strike to Walker at 12:52.

Hamilton converted two Toronto turnovers into 10 points for a 20-11 lead. Hajrullahu hit a 26-yard field goal at 12:43, set up by Curtis Newton's recovery of a fumbled kickoff return at Toronto 34-yard line.

Masoli's one-yard run at 10:25 came after Richard Leonard intercepted O'Connor to put Hamilton at the Toronto 31-yard line. Hajrullahu's 10-yard field goal at 6:50 pulled the Ticats to within 11-10 after De La Haye missed from 41 yards out for the single.

Wilder Jr. put Toronto ahead 10-7 with a three-yard TD run at 14:50. It came after Brown connected from 19 yards out at 9:59.

Masoli's 11-yard TD strike to Addison at 3:17 capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive to start the contest.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press