Dalton Bell will make his first career start for the Toronto Argonauts this Saturday (3 p.m. ET) at the Rogers Centre, and he’ll be lining up against his former team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Earning the start did not come as a surprise to Bell.
“I have been preparing like I was going to start all week,” he said to Argonauts.ca. “They told me on Monday and Tuesday that Cleo wasn’t going to practice and I have prepared myself mentally and physically from that time just so I know that I could be ready if I did get the nod.”
Bell spent the last two seasons on Saskatchewan’s practice roster, never seeing any action on the field.
He was traded to Toronto for a fifth-round pick last spring, and despite putting up better numbers than Lemon in the pre-season (completing 18-of-26 passes for 341 yards and one touchdown over three quarters), was demoted to second-string status.
So far this season, the 27-year-old has taken little snaps, going 5-of-10 for 79 yards with an interception.
Now he will be called upon to lead an offence that hasn’t scored more than 18 points since a 37-22 win over Montreal seven weeks ago, a stretch that has seen Toronto go 1-4.
The Double Blue now sit in a tie for second in the East with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at 6-6, three six points behind the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes.
Bell will get some help, however, as running back Cory Boyd returns to the lineup after missing two games. He sat out not only with a concussion, but he also had to heal while dealing with the grief of the apparent suicide of friend and former college teammate Kenny McKinley, a wide receiver with the Denver Broncos.
The 25-year-old broke out with the league lead in rushing yards after 10 games, and still sits in third despite missing two contests.
Boyd and Bell will be in a tough position, trying to put up enough points to outscore the league’s hottest offence.
Quarterback Darian Durant led Saskatchewan to a 32-25 win over the Tiger-Cats on Sept. 25, throwing for 418 yards and tossing three touchdowns.
Running back Wes Cates added to his league lead in TD’s with a one-yard major in the first quarter. He now sits at 14 touchdowns on the season, five more than both Terrence Edwards of Winnipeg and Montreal’s S.J. Green.
Saskatchewan appeared destined for a second-place finish in the West with Calgary looking so good, but two straight losses by the Stamps have them sitting atop a precarious perch.
The Riders are now one game back of Calgary, but currently have all the momentum on their side.