HAMILTON — After two Grey Cups and two most outstanding player awards in a decade with the Calgary Stampeders, all Bo Levi Mitchell needed was two series of downs to exhibit he is ready to perform for his new team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Mitchell tossed an early touchdown to lead the Ticats to a 27-22 CFL pre-season win against the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.
"At the moment, everything is pretty basic," said Mitchell, who predicted he won't feel completely comfortable in his new uniform until week six or seven.
"We're building staples, and we're building plays for guys to feel confident in what they're doing. We'll keep building on it, ramping it up."
This was the first pre-season game for the longtime rival Ticats (1-0) and the defending Grey Cup champion Argos (0-1).
Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer planned to give Mitchell only a brief stint and then allow backup Taylor Powell an opportunity to finish the outing.
After dropped passes by wide receiver Justin McGriff and running back James Butler on Mitchell's first two attempts, he hit Richie Sindani for a 32-yard score on the Ticats' second offensive possession.
The Regina-born Sindini played with Mitchell in Calgary.
"It was interesting to see him in his game uniform, but he was out there with the same calmness and confidence as in practice," Steinauer said of his new quarterback.
Hamilton acquired the rights to the 33-year-old Mitchell in exchange for a 2023 third-round draft pick and a 2024 fifth-round selection last November. He then signed a three-year contract with Hamilton in January.
Mitchell went 3-for-6 for 63 yards before departing. The newcomer spent the rest of the game on a headset, conversing with Hamilton offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tommy Condell.
"We bounced ideas off each other," Mitchell said. "Tommy's calm, he's confident, and he allows the players to play."
Ethan Ratke kicked a 19-yard field goal to open the second quarter, and wide receiver Lio'Undre Gallimore returned a punt 84 yards to give the home side a 17-0 halftime advantage before an estimated crowd of 17,500 at Tim Hortons Field.
"Coach kept saying you got to see it before you see it," Gallimore said. "I went to sleep. I saw it. I woke up this morning and took a shower seeing it. I just kept seeing it."
Defensive backs Lawrence Woods III and Stavros Katsantonis made key first-half interceptions for Hamilton.
Ben Holmes started at quarterback for Toronto. But his replacement Cameron Dukes hit RaJae Johnson for a 15-yard strike at 4:28 of the third quarter. A Holmes to Dejon Brissett two-point conversion was successful.
The Ticats' most popular touchdown play came on an eight-yarder from Powell to Bailey Feltmate for a 24-8 lead.
The Moncton-raised Feltmate is a second-string linebacker. But Steinauer likes his smarts and came to him three days before the game to warn him he might get a look on offence.
"Bailey's just a very, very smart football player," Steinauer said. "He's a competitor, and if there's a chance to get on the field, we'll get him in there."
Bryan Scott, the Argos third quarterback in the game, then found B.J. Byrd for a short touchdown pass.
The two combined for another two-point conversion.
Hamilton placekicker Jonathan Garibay hit a 46-yard field goal in the final minute. With Dukes back in at quarterback, the Argos marched down the field for an eight-yard touchdown pass to Byrd as time ran out for the game's final score.
The Argos are celebrating their 150th anniversary season, and the Ticats will host the 110th Grey Cup championship game on Nov. 19.
Argos wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.'s day ended early. On Toronto's second offensive possession, the Wilfrid Laurier University product was rocked by Hamilton linebacker Jameer Thurman near midfield.
The East Division's 2022 nominee was attended to on the field for a few minutes before receiving attention on his left shoulder on the sidelines. He did not return.
The Argos host the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday, while the Ticats travel to Montreal to play the Alouettes on Friday.
Hamilton opens the regular season in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers on June 9. Toronto has a first-week bye and will host the Ticats in its opener on June 18.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2023.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press