Alouettes brace for noisy reception

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

It is a road less-travelled, but one the Montreal Alouettes are hoping leads to a familiar destination.

In a reversal of scenarios, the Als must adjust to the crowd noise, hostile environment and the new tag as underdogs as they face the Argos in today's East final at the Rogers Centre.

The matchup marks the fourth time in as many years the teams have battled with a Grey Cup berth at stake, but the first that features the Als as the road team.

"It's definitely a different road,'' Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo said on the eve of today's tilt. "But we're now in a position to get to the Grey Cup and that's the ultimate goal."

Having seen the Argos battle the elements at Olympic Stadium in the past and not enjoy the benefits of a week's bye, Calvillo has an idea of what's in store for the pass-happy Als when they step on to the field today.

As you might expect, Calvillo says the Als have practised all week with a silent count. And as he also knows, the best way to silence the crowd is to take an early lead.

"Hopefully the noise won't be a problem,'' the classy veteran said. "You can take the crowd out by playing good football."

Montreal, at least offensively, has been, and remains, a team that relies on Calvillo's accurate arm, its strong offensive line and by keeping opposing defences off-balance.

The bend-but-don't-break Argos defence has been vulnerable against the rush and Als running back Robert Edwards may loom as an important figure.

READY FOR CROWD

"We have to run when they think we'll be passing and vice-versa,'' the 1,000-yard rusher said. "We've played here before when it was loud and we've played in B.C. Place, so we're definitely prepared for the crowd."

The Argos took two of three meetings against the Als this season, are defending Grey Cup champions and are favoured in today's showdown.

"I don't feel like an underdog,'' Als linebacker Timothy Strickland said. "As far as I'm concerned, this game is a toss- up. I think the team that plays with discipline and wins the turnover battle will win."

In each of their past three East final matchups, a starting quarterback has been knocked out of the game. Three years ago, it was Reggie Slack, then it was Damon Allen, and last year Calvillo was sidelined.

"It's something I'm very aware of,'' Als backup QB Ted White said. "I'm better prepared this year and hopefully no one gets hurt. I just have to be ready."

The tide turned in Toronto's favour a year ago when Eric England sacked Calvillo in the second quarter, forcing Montreal's best player to the sidelines with a separated shoulder. White entered the game and was a non-factor.

"That was a good/bad experience,'' White said. "It was good to get that experience playing in an Eastern final for the first time, but it was bad the way I played.''

Als veteran offensive lineman Bryan Chiu stated the obvious when he said protecting Calvillo is foremost.

"He's our leader and we need to protect him because we know what happened last year,'' Chiu said.


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