Future is now for Cleo Lemon

Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon runs the ball against the Stampeders in Toronto, Ontario on July...

Argonauts quarterback Cleo Lemon runs the ball against the Stampeders in Toronto, Ontario on July 14, 2010. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:37 AM ET

Jim Barker has talked until he’s double blue in the face about not letting the past interfere with the present where his Argonauts and their modestly improved 3-1 record are concerned.

So knowing how hard a fourth win is going to be on Thursday in Montreal against CFL quarterback legend Anthony Calvillo, Barker chose to speak in the future tense, putting his rookie pivot Cleo Lemon in a time machine and adjusting the fast forward levers to July 29, 2020.

“I’ve had Anthony (as offensive co-ordinator of the Alouettes in their 2002 Grey Cup year) and Anthony went through struggles in his career, found the right system for himself and now he’s flourishing,” Barker said Tuesday after practice.

“It’s exciting to watch a guy who cares as much as Anthony enjoying the success he is having. Cleo’s days for that success are going to come because they both have that individual toughness, they both have composure and they understand the importance of hard work.

“Hopefully, 10 years from now, you’ll see Cleo up there and there will be another Cleo coming along behind him and we’ll say: ‘Remember when you played Anthony Calvillo in that rookie season?’”

Lemon has not been dominating, despite Toronto’s record, but give the relative unknown credit for playing a role on a first-place team where some CFL vets could not inspire the Argos the past couple of years.

That said, his opponent has been mastering three-down football since 1994, with more than 60,000 yards passing and a couple of Grey Cup rings.

“I know he’s top of the class,” Lemon conceded. “He’s a veteran, he’s seen it all. It will be good to watch him operate. But at the same time, going out and executing will be my focus.”

If Montreal plays to character and puts up stiff resistance to the Argos’ ground game, Lemon will have no choice but go to the air, where communication with his receivers has been garbled at times.

“Calvillo is Calvillo,” Canadian slotback Andre Durie said. “As an offence, we have to score points because they have a great offence over there. But do what we do best and things will take care of themselves.

“Lemon is looking great, making the right reads and getting the ball out of his hands quickly and finding the right guys. As receivers we have to hold on to the ball and run routes to give him a clear picture.

“It’s about securing the ball and scoring when we have the opportunities, in those red zone plays where we have a chance for seven instead of three. That’s going to be the challenge. This is a huge test. For the past four years I’ve been here, Montreal has always been that team to beat. We have to come out and be perfect, we can’t be turning over the ball like we did in the last game.”

When the inevitable Montreal home comfort zone was brought up — the Als haven’t lost there since Oct. 26, 2008 — Barker wryly noted the Argos just broke a six-year losing streak against the B.C. Lions.

It’s been almost three years since the Argos won there, but Barker is not quite ready to call Thursday’s match a preview of the Eastern final.

Learning experience

“We’re four games into an 18-game season,” Barker said. “We understand that and we’re a team that is young and growing and trying to learn every week. We’re going into Molson Stadium against the defending champs and we’re going to learn. We’re going to be better for having the experience.”

For Durie, who has seen Montreal’s power the past few years as a fan and then up close as an Argo as they routinely knocked the Boatmen around the past couple of years, he’s pumped about Thursday’s game at least being on a more level field.

Like many Argos, he’s not getting picky in the wake of each win, all fourth-quarter driven.

“Well, it’s good we’re persevering through all this,” Durie said with a smile. “In years past, we would be down on the scoreboard and that was pretty much a wrap. It’s good to see we are clawing back into these types of victories.

“That’s a mentality of a championship team. We’ll take that mentality, clean up all the other stuff and it will be very difficult to beat us.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos