Argos bounce Eskies

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

EDMONTON -- You can be sure that Michael (Pinball) Clemons didn't know where Alberta was and probably didn't know there was such a thing as an Eskimo.

The year was 1971, the previous time professional sport's most-prolific dynasty had missed the post-season and there wasn't much bounce in the Pinball just yet.

"I was six years old and in the first grade and I had just lost my two front teeth," Clemons said yesterday after the Argos put an end to the incredible era with a 28-25 win over the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.

"This is one of those bittersweet moments because we needed the victory for what we are trying to do. But what they have done here is really special, so I'm not a guy who takes pride in ending that kind of streak."

It ended with a sloppy effort that has typified the Eskimos' 5-11 season and with many of the 39,533 once-proud Commonwealth faithful booing in disgust.

Despite recording just 10 first downs to Edmonton's 30 and being outgained 477 yards to 261 in net offence, the Argos were opportunistic at all the right times.

The win moved the Boatmen to 10-6 and in sole possession of first in the CFL East with two games remaining.

While the season has been one to forget as the Eskimos guaranteed their spot in the West Division cellar, the memories of the past 34 seasons are ones to be savoured.

Even in the CFL, where under its current configuration only two teams are excluded from the post-season, the record -- unmatched by any other pro sports team -- is remarkable.

There were 10 Grey Cups in those 34 seasons, including last year. When the streak began, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister and it had been only five years since your beloved Maple Leafs had won the Stanley Cup.

Argos quarterback Damon Allen, who did his part to keep the run going in the 1980s and helped end it yesterday, said the Eskimos mystique hung thick in the Alberta air.

"It was the confidence level of this football team, the swagger in which we would come out," said Allen, who began his CFL career with the Eskimos in 1985 and won his first Grey Cup with the team, two years later.

"The fans and their high expectations. All those things played a huge factor and you know you better come out and play."

SWAGGER

There wasn't much swagger in Allen's former team yesterday.

Quarterback Ricky Ray, who was harassed by the stout Argos defensive front all afternoon, couldn't summon the magic until it was too late.

After closing to 21-18 with just under four minutes remaining, Ray had his team approaching field-goal range. But with 1:14 on the clock, Ray's desperation pass landed in the arms of Argos defender Byron Parker, who returned it 75 yards for a decisive touchdown.

"For us to knock them out of the playoffs, it was a good feeling," Argos defensive end Eric England said. "But they were just in the way of us trying to get to where we're going.

"Unfortunately for them, they ran into a machine."

Even though they could see it coming for weeks, the gloom in the stadium was matched in the Eskimos locker room that had been home to so many championships.

"Nobody in here wanted the streak to end on their watch," Eskimos receiver Jason Tucker said.


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