Argos’ QB Dukes defies underdog label in debut

Toronto downs B.C. Lions 35-27 in home opener

Cameron Dukes, Toronto Argos.
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Cameron Dukes gets loose before their home opener on June 9. Dukes had an excellent game in place of suspended star Chad Kelly. (Photo courtesy Toronto Argonauts X)  

There may be new royalty in Toronto — it’s Cameron Dukes, who powered the Toronto Argonauts to a comeback win over the BC Lions 35-27 in Canadian Football League action Sunday at BMO Field.

After the Argonauts (1-0) defence came up with a two and out forcing the Lions (0-1) back to their one yard line, Dukes put the game away with 1:22 left, punching in his first rushing touchdown of the season to put the Argos up eight. 

Dukes, who was replacing suspended star Chad Kelly, ended up with 254 yards through the air on 21 of 27 passing, good for 77.8 per cent completion rate and three touchdown passes.

However, Dukes wasn’t untouchable in his first game in for a quarterback who led the club to a 16-2 club record in 2023. His drop midway through the second quarter led to a fumble recovery touchdown by Lions defensive tackle Tibo Debaillie, the Argos trailed 20-6. 

It was at that moment, Argonauts quarterbacks coach Mike Miller pulled Dukes aside to help him regain confidence. 

“It’s been nothing but support from (Miller) in my development as a quarterback. It all falls on him,” said Dukes, in the Argonauts locker room during his postgame media availability. “If a guy’s not getting it, he’ll figure out how to make him get it.” 

In the rest of the game the Argos outscored the Lions 29-7.

Argonauts head coach, Ryan Dinwiddie, was impressed with his teams’ resilience; even down two converted touchdowns they didn’t let the game get away. 

“Certain times you get down by 14, they’re worried about the outcome, let’s just worry about the process,” said Dinwiddie during his postgame press conference. “We’ll find ways to win the game, it’s never going to be easy. It’s professional sports.

“Sometimes you stub your toe and you got to put your big boy pants on and find a way to win or slug it out if you’re going to lose.”

Argos new running back Ka’Deem Carey — the former Chicago Bear who came over from the Calgary Stampeders this off season — made his Double Blue debut one to remember, scoring the season opening touchdown for the Argonauts in front of a loud crowd of 12,767 at BMO.

The 5-foot-9, 206 pound, scored on their second drive of the game after Dukes found him running out of the backfield for an eight-yard touchdown pass. 

Carey, who hadn’t scored a major in all of the 2023 campaign, was relieved to open the scoring for his new team, as it “got the monkey off my back.”

His terrific offensive line was also key.

“It felt great just to see how big those holes were,” said Carey, who picked up 65 yards on 16 carries. “They gave me so much room that I can show my abilities and make people miss, so I’m excited to keep running behind those men.”

The biggest question coming into this season for the Argos was how the second year player Dukes would fair at quarterback.

But the second biggest question mark was how the Argo defence, that was so dominant in 2023, would look after losing so many big pieces. Arguably the biggest being their defensive coordinator, Corey Mace who accepted the head coaching job for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

After blanking the Lions’ high powered offence in the first quarter, led by Vernon Adams Jr. — who finished the game with 363 passing yards on 25 of 33 passing attempts with two touchdowns and one interception — the Argo defence gave up two quick touchdowns to begin the second quarter. 

For the rest of the game, they only allowed two field goals.

Dinwiddie was impressed with the overall performance of the defence in Week One.

“I thought they did a great job, got after the quarterback. It was a difference, maybe it was our front seven,” said Dinwiddie. 

One of those players that got to Adams Jr. was Jake Ceresna, who the Argos traded for in the off season. He had one sack and four tackles in the win and caught Dinwiddie’s eye.

“Jake’s a great addition, blue collar-type of worker, flows the same way. It’s going to make that other guys in the D-line elevate their game too. So, I’m very proud of our veteran leadership.”

The Argonauts, who now are on a bye week, will play their next game on June 22, hosting the Edmonton Elks. 

About this article

By:
Posted: Jun 12 2024 11:07 am
Edition:
Filed under: CFL Football Sports
Topics: