Stamps', Argos' first course

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:33 AM ET

It's a brand new season, and the Toronto Argonauts are in town for a Canada Day date with the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.

With a long list of returnees headlined by star signal-caller Henry Burris, the Stamps are a veteran bunch still sour from a season-ending loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Final.

The Argos, meanwhile, are a crew of up-and-comers growing weary of answering questions about whether Cleo Lemon has the makeup of a bonafide CFL quarterback.

Feels like ... 2010?

"I don't want to say that it feels a lot like last year. Each year, you get excited for a new season. You get an opportunity to prove how good of a team you are," said Stamps running back Joffrey Reynolds. "In a lot of respects, you're always nervous coming out for the first game because you have so many expectations."

Friday's showdown at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN, QR77) is a rematch of last year's lid-lifter, when the Stamps rolled to a 30-16 triumph over the Boatmen.

The Red & White notched a league-best 13-5 record in 2010, but failed to punch a Grey Cup ticket with a loss to the Roughriders in the West Final. The Argos posted a 9-9 mark and won a first-round playoff game before getting throttled by the eventual champion Montreal Alouettes in the East Final.

After back-to-back wins in the exhibition season, there's plenty of optimism in Toronto's camp, where several key pieces -- from sideline boss Jim Barker to star running back Cory Boyd and return dynamo Chad Owens -- are now entering a second summer in double blue. After some struggles in his first CFL campaign, Lemon secured his status as a No.-1 quarterback with a solid pre-season performance.

Although there are still plenty of familiar faces in the locker-room he called home for five seasons, former Stamps star and second-year Argos receiver Jeremaine Copeland insists this doesn't feel anything like last Canada Day for the Boatmen.

"The team that you saw last year was a young team that had just got together," Copeland said. "Coming in early in the season, you didn't know what you were going to get. It was just a matter of seeing a bunch of young guys trying to gel together and we just got better and better as the year went on. But this year, we've got everybody back from last year, so we're expecting big things.

"Of course, we wanted to win last year. But this year, we definitely believe that we've got a chance to win."

They're not alone.

In fact, some insiders are pegging Friday's matchup at McMahon Satdium as a possible Grey Cup preview. That might be a bit premature, but the Stamps and Argos have served up some fireworks in the past.

The two teams also hooked up for the season-opener in 2005, although Burris' first game back in a Stamps uniform is most memorable for a sideline altercation between Argos placekicker Noel Prefontaine and an ex-teammate.

"It seems like we've started against the Argos four times in my time here," said Stamps slotback Nik Lewis. "But I don't think Robert Baker is going to walk in and hit Prefontaine this year."

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNGilbertson


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