Loss to Argos still stings Hage

Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

At no level in his football life has Marwan Hage experienced so much pain. At no point in his career has Hage felt so sick to his stomach that it took the better part of four months to completely forget the moment.

We take you to last year’s Eastern semifinal at Ivor Wynne Stadium, where the host Ticats were prohibitive favourites to beat their arch-nemesis Argos, a team Hamilton had owned during the regular season.

It was one of those matchups, at least on paper, where everything had to go wrong for the Ticats to lose and everything had to fall into place for the Argos to win.

That’s exactly what happened, and Hage couldn’t let go until March.

“That one hurt,’’ Hage said with the Argos set to return to the scene of the crime for the first time on Saturday night. “Personally, it was one of the most painful losses in my career, from my peewee days to the pros.

“And I’ve lost some bad games. I’ve lost 40-0, I’ve lost close games, rough games, but like I’ve always said, I’ll never take away from what they (Argos) did. What they did was extraordinary, to come in here and win a playoff game was great and kudos to them.”

To make it worse for Hage, his parents flew in from Lebanon to witness the occasion.

Rather than advance to the East final in Montreal, Hamilton’s loss ushered in off-season change.

Naturally, both the Argos and Ticats are different that last November, but the roles have not changed with Hamilton favoured.

And so they should be and must be given how the Argos have dropped five in a row and how Hamilton’s defence has shown signs of completely shutting down an opponent’s offence.

If the Argos become one-dimensional, it will take something similar to last year’s playoff circumstances for the visitors to win when Toronto made just enough plays on offence and forced turnovers on defence and special teams.

The memory of that Sunday afternoon is now in the past for Hage, but the veteran centre is nonetheless longing to play the Argos on Labour Day, which won’t happen this year.

“It’s sad we’re not playing them on Labour Day because I’ve been part of that tradition for a long time,’’ he said. “Maybe we’ll come back to it next year.”

As for Saturday night’s rematch, Hage knows what to expect.

“I’m sure this game will be a typical Argos-Ticat game,’’ he said. “It’ll be rowdy, rough, there will be fights and there will be ejections.”

With Orlondo Steinauer now in charge of the Argos defence, Hage isn’t expecting a huge change in philosophy, but he’s prepared just in case.

“I played against Orlondo and I know the kind of defence he played under and who (Rich Stubler) mentored him. Orlondo hasn’t had a lot of time to implement his stuff, but there will be some (different) flavours and I’m expecting some Stubler looks.

“If that happens, I’ve got my back notes ready to make the calls.”

Whatever looks Steinauer comes up with, it’ll all begin on the line of scrimmage.

“They’re are a very good defensive line,’’ Hage said of the Argos. “We just got to play rough, get in their face and play ball. It’s going to be a big fight. We’re big and they’re big. It’s one of those things where we’re a good line and they’re a good line.”


Videos

Photos