Monday, July 09, 2007


Canadian Football League Action in Toronto

On Thursday night, the Calgary Stampeders will take the field in Toronto against the Argos.

Following a loss to the B C Lions, and a shellacking of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, the Argos are ready for the Stampeders. The Westerners are smarting from a thumping this past weekend at the hands of the Sakatchewan Roughriders, 49-8. Ouch!

The loss to the Roughies was not pretty. Lapses in defence, an ejection, a sputtering offence---it all added up to an embarrassing loss. These things do not sit lightly upon the shoulders of CFL players. They will not be in a good mood Thursday night in Toronto.

The Argos had little trouble with the Tiger Cats. The Tabbies are in transition. In fact they have been in transition for several years. They have been through a host of coaches, they have experimented with many quarterbacks, they have kept the revolving door busy at Ivor Wynne Stadium as players come and go. They are still quite inept.

But these are not your Argos of old. The most important player on the team, the captain at the helm of the ship for many years now stands quietly on the sidelines. Damon Allen, for the moment, has been replaced. Inevitably. He broke several passing records last year, and returned to lead the team again this year.

With little fanfare, Coach Mike Clemons has replaced Allen with Mike Bishop. Bishop has been riding the pine on the Argo bench for several seasons, and even had stints in the Arena Football League.

Bishop earned his stripes in the Argo victory over the Ticats. Not overly spectacular, but effective. His receiving corps snagged touchdowns passes on three occasions---Tony Miles, Arland Bruce III, and Andre Talbot all pulled down six point receptions. Bishop also kept the Steeltown defence on its toes with 27 yards rushing on five carries.

Henry Burris leads the Stamps from the QB spot. He has an impressive array of receivers; he just had difficulty finding them in the loss to the Roughriders. But the likes of Jeremaine Copeland, Ryan Thelwell, Brett Ralph, Marc Boerigter, and Ken-Yon Rambo will make life interesting for the Argo defence. And if Burris fails to find the mark, rest assured that Coach Higgins will call on Akili Smith to take some snaps.

Smith is certainly an enigma. He was drafted third overall into the NFL, following Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb. He signed a contract that gave him a bonus of more than $ 10 million. Obviously, he likes to play the game. With a pocket full of Toonies, why would anyone want to get sacked by 300 pound linemen? For the love of the game, no doubt.

As is often the case, football is a game of momentum. The Stamps had none Sunday night. They would like to get a jump on the Argos Thursday night. It is a very short week for them, not much time to heal.

The Argos would like to continue their winning ways, and host the Grey Cup in November. This is early July, however, and there is a lot of turf to cover before that time.

A victory in July is worth exactly the same number of points as a win in September. There is no time like the present for the Double Blue to put points on the board.

Argo legend Derrell “Mookie” Mitchell has been called up by Mike Clemons to replace starter Patrick Johnson. Mitchell needs 91 receiving yards to surpass Paul Masotti as the franchise leader. That should not be the focus for the Argos.

There are bigger fish to fry. On Thursday night, at the Rogers Centre.

There will be about 25 000 fans in the seats. There will be 25 000 seats that are empty. Even the cheap seats offer a great view of the game. See you there.

James Hurst
July 9, 2007

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