Friday, July 13, 2007
A Painful Victory for the Argos
Last Thursday night, the Toronto Argonauts had little trouble disposing of the Calgary Stampeders. The Stamps were playing their second road game of the week, having visited Regina the previous Sunday. They flew east Monday, got settled, had one decent contact practice at McMaster in Hamilton, and were at the Rogers Centre on Thursday. Easy pickings for the Argos.
The Stamps were inept in all areas. The offence sputtered, with both Burris and Akili Smith at the helm. They coughed up the ball so many times that the Argos were able to score thirty-eight points off turnovers. After leading 48-1, the Argos allowed their Western rivals to cash in for two touchdowns, resulting in a final of 48-15.
In mid April, the Argos traded Calgary a couple of high draft picks for a seasoned offensive guard named Taylor Robertson. Robertson was born in Brantford, went to college on a scholarship at the University of Central Florida, but played his high school ball in Kingston at LaSalle Secondary School.
I spoke with Robertson after the game. He found the win most satisfying. After all, he explained, Calgary had “kicked me out the front door” in a rather abrupt manner. He had been drafted by the Stamps in 2003 in the second round, but had opted to attend the Philadelphia Eagles camp. He was released as a final cut by the Eagles, and was activated for the second last game of the year by Calgary.
Since that time, he started forty straight games as a Stampeder on the offensive line. He not only started those games, but “played every offensive down” in those games. “It felt good to win this one”, he told me. “It’s great to be here in Toronto”, he added. “There is a great atmosphere in this dressing room.”
In one of the Toronto newspapers that day, it was noted that Taylor had played his high school ball in Belleville. “That is not the case”, he told me. “I began playing football in Grade Nine at LaSalle.”
During his high school career, there was a work-to-rule at Ontario Secondary Schools. All football programs were on hold. Robertson latched onto a program run by Centennial coach Barry Pyear for Quinte area students, and played several games as a tight end. “That was a great program. I really appreciate all of the work that Coach Pyear did for us.” (The team played St. Michael’s from Toronto at Centennial. I worked as an umpire in that game.)
I spoke with Coach Pyear about Robertson’s game with the team. “Taylor averaged a couple of catches a game for us. He helped with our run game as well; however, I saw that he’d make a better offensive lineman. He was a big guy at that time, and he was still growing.”
Jamie Barresi had coached with the Tiger Cats, but was the offensive co-ordinator with Wake Forest at that time. He then moved on to Central Florida. (Dante Culpepper, who has had an outstanding, yet interesting career in the NFL, had just left Central Florida.) Barresi was instrumental in getting Robertson to look at the Florida program.
There were four local players at the CFL combine that year-all trying to get an inside track into the CFL: Kyle Pyear, Justin Shakell, Mike Botterill, and Robertson. Unfortunately, Robertson pulled his hamstring in the 40 yard dash. Because of that, he was selected late in the first round. Pyear always thought that Robertson coulkd have made the grade in the NFL. He was ranked at that time, but was not chosen for the draft. He was a final cut from the Philadelphia Eagles the following spring.
At six feet, six inches, and tipping the scales in the 335 pound range, Robertson has become comfortable as an offensive guard. “I do miss getting my hands on the ball as a tight end,” he added with a chuckle.
Coach Clemons was disturbed following the game. He knew that his quarterback was in difficulty. Bishop had landed hard on his throwing arm near the Stamps end zone. He got up gingerly, held his helmet in his left hand, and sprinted to the locker room with the training staff. He subsequently went to the hospital.
Clemons did not have the diagnosis, nor had he seen the X Rays. He is neither a surgeon nor a radiologist. But he was badgered about Bishop’s condition by reporters for the first ten minutes of his post game interview. He seemed relieved when I asked him about the highlights of the game.
“I wasn’t happy to see Bishop’s first pass intercepted. But he makes things happen, and that’s why he started the game. He is in a transformation mode at this time---mentally, and skill-wise. He is now 80% to 90% right in his judgement, and that’s pretty darn good. I am dejected about his injury, however.” (Rightfully so, as Bishop did fracture his distal radius, and will be out for 6 to 8 weeks).
Clemons went on to summarize the game. “Both teams were tired from the start. Teams need a week to recuperate from a game, and neither of us had that time. They were worse off in the injury department. Our objective from the start was to increase the pace of the game to take advantage of their fatigue.”
And so they did, capitalizing on the Stamps’ ineptitude, and their weariness.
A decent crowd of almost thirty thousand was on hand to cheer on the Boatmen. The Argos now have a bit of a respite before heading to Calgary to face the Stamps on Saturday, July 21st. Considering the number of altercations following the whistles on Thursday, the Argos know it will be a tough game in the West. Mike McMahon finished the game at the helm for the Argos.
McMahon signed with the Argos in February this year, following stints in Detroit and Philly in the NFL. He idolized former Eagle quarterbacks Randall Cunningham and Jim McMahon. They both played when Belleville native and Queen’s grad Mike Schad was on the Philly line.
The Argos have little over a week to re-establish their offence under McMahon. There will be some growing pains. But Coach Clemons appears committed to a new regime at quarterback, with McMahon, and Eric Crouch, and Mike Bishop---when he has healed.
Just another opportunity to re-invent the wheel for the Argos.
July 14, 2007