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CFL PLAYOFFS

Argos going to the Grey Cup

By Frank Zicarelli, Toronto Sun

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MONTREAL - 

It’s Grey Cup or bust for the Argos, a time when Toronto’s band-wagging fans have a chance to finally hitch a ride on the backs of a championship-worthy franchise.

If an appearance in the historic 100th Grey Cup does not get the sporting juices flowing in fickle Hogtown, nothing, it seems, will, as in ever.

The Argos will now play in the CFL’s biggest game of the season, perhaps in the history of three-down football if one is into nostalgia and history.

The biggest party Toronto has ever seen, at least if you listen to event organizers, is now on, now that the Argos have dispatched their old nemesis in the form of the Montreal Alouettes.

Sunday’s East final would be the Chad Show, a show of strength by Toronto’s defence, a show of character by a team that was down early, regrouped at the break and would emerge as the superior team.

Ricky Ray was not at his best, but he did not turn the ball over on a day when Chad Owens and Chad Kackert had the game of their lives.

What Ray did was hang in when the Als brought pressure, which was often, get up and deliver the ball when plays had to be made.

When they play next week at Rogers Centre, noise won’t be a factor and Ray has a chance to lead a team that has peaked at the right team, a team that knows it has one left to win.

And Toronto’s defence held the Als to only three second-half points as the Argos left hostile Olympic Stadium with a 27-20 win.

Inside Toronto’s victorious locker room, there was no champagne popping, no high-fiving, no outward signs of what had unfolded and what had been achieved.

“There’s only one prize,’’ said Ricky Foley, who exorcised demons of the 2010 beat-down by the Als on the same East final stage. “There’s one more game to be won before we celebrate. We’re taking this thing all the way.”

Foley and GM Jim Barker walked off the field together, recounting a road that began three years ago when Barker returned to Toronto, Foley playing for a team that’s as close to home as any for the native of Courtice, Ont.

“This is why we came here,’’ Foley said. “This is why Jim built the team the way he has and everything he’s done has been to play in this Grey Cup and win it. That’s all that matters.”

There was vindication for Barker in the way he has handled himself in the face of rumours surrounding his future, which can no longer be in question, validation for Scott Milanovich, a rookie head coach who no longer needs to respond to questions from his days in Montreal, and unbridled joy for guys such as Mo Mann and Jason Barnes.

A year ago, the two lost their best friend, Reggie Doucet.

To keep his spirit alive, both Mann and Barnes wear yellow armbands.

“I can’t put into words the emotions I’m feeling, the thoughts that are going through my mind,’’ Mann said. “This is the biggest moment of my life and I’m overjoyed, elated.

“There’s so much trust on this team, so much belief and commitment for each other.”

It’s why there was no panic when the Argos gathered at halftime.

To hear the players tell it, there was nothing schematically that changed once the second half would begin, but clearly the Argos played their best in the third and hung on as the Als could not get over the hump.

“One more game,’’ said rookie defensive tackle Armond Armstead, a beast whose future will one day be in the NFL because he’s that good and dominant. “The Grey Cup is in our home, the fans in Toronto should be excited and we’re aiming to bring them a championship.

“That’s all that matters. I’ve been around great players my whole life and you have to always look at the big picture. For us, it’s the Grey Cup.”

For the second year in a row, the CFL may have the host team hoist its iconic trophy.

For that to happen, the Argos will have to somehow find a way to avoid their early game hiccups, continue this roll they’ve established and put the ball in Ray’s hands.

 


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