Go time for Argos, 'Cats

Argos quarterback Damon Allen shares a laugh with teammate Andre Rison as the Boatmen prepare to...

Argos quarterback Damon Allen shares a laugh with teammate Andre Rison as the Boatmen prepare to meet the Hamilton Tiger-Cats tonight. Allen will be facing another savvy veteran in Ticats QB Danny McManus. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The words have been spoken, the rosters announced and the game plans devised.

There are no major injuries to speak of, no major lineup changes and no excuses.

And so the stage is set for tonight's CFL Eastern semi-final playoff showdown between the host Argos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The winner travels to Montreal and a date in the Nov. 14 final against the mighty Alouettes with a berth in the Grey Cup on the line.

"This is what's great about football," veteran Argos offensive lineman Jude St. John said. "It's not a series. It's one game and you have to put it all on the line for that one.

"You wouldn't want to be playing against anyone other than Hamilton. This is what CFL football is all about. Knowing that so much is on the line makes it very exciting."

Tonight's tussle is guaranteed of drawing the largest football crowd to the SkyDome this season. With the lower bowl all but sold out, there's a realistic chance of the game pushing the 40,000-mark in attendance.

The Argos have had the Ticat number of late, going unbeaten in their three-game season series and not being beaten by Hamilton in two years, a span of 13 games.

"There has been a lot of talk about what's going to happen and who is saying this and that," Argos quarterback Damon Allen said. "The game speaks for itself. The team that is best prepared to play will win and I can assure you the way we've practised this week the Argos will be ready."

Don't expect any sudden change in philosophies.

The Argos will rely on their defence, will ask Allen to manage the game and use their edge on special teams to win the battle of field position.

The Ticats, who have shown they can run the ball against the Argos, will not back down from any one-on-one battles and will try to neutralize the one-two return punch of Bashir Levingston and Arland Bruce.

"I can't remember a better matchup than this football game," Argos coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons said. "We know each other and we've played each other.

"It's a fact of life that one bounce during a football game can determine a winner and we're looking for the Argo bounce."

'HUGE FOOTBALL GAME'

Argos linebacker Mike O'Shea is one of many players who have seen the rivalry from both sides.

"Needless to say, this is a huge football game," O'Shea said. "You have a rivalry that is more than a century old.

"For us, this is a step we need to take to get to our next goal and that's to win the Grey Cup."

Ticats rookie head coach Greg Marshall has been pleased with his team's focus and preparation in the days leading up to tonight.

"I sense a real strong positive feeling inside our locker room," Marshall said. "I expect a lot of emotion, a lot of respect and a well-played football game."

And a game that promises to be very electric.


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