Touching sendoff for Paopao

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:50 PM ET

OTTAWA -- Touch 'em all, Joe, you'll never win another game for the Renegades.

In his final appearance as head coach of the Ottawa Renegades, Joe Paopao led his team to a 27-17 win over the Argonauts yesterday at Frank Clair Stadium.

The Argos, who dropped to 11-7, rested seven starters, including starting quarterback Damon Allen, having already clinched first place in the East.

The victory gave the Renegades a record of 7-11, one victory shy of the win total Paopao needed to have his contract extended for a fifth season. He has been the only coach of the Renegades since they were born in 2002.

Although the game attracted a crowd of only 16,504, Paopao managed to touch them all as if he had just won the Grey Cup.

Near the end of the game, after his players deliriously doused him with a bucket of ice water, Paopao removed his aloha shirt -- a floral decoration symbolic of his Polynesian background -- and threw it into the crowd.

At one point in the game, the crowd booed Paopao for his decision to try a field goal on a third-down play, instead of gambling for the first down. But toward the end, the emotion of the crowd swung the other way, and Paopao described the whole game experience as surreal.

"Every minute I looked at the clock, every second was ticking, it was a mixture of emotions knowing that, hey, it was a lot of work the last four years," Paopao said. "Internally, I had that peaceful feeling inside that I'm not sure how much more work I could have done.

"We had circumstances around here that were doozers, but the one thing I can't stand is whiners. Hey, you deal with things."

Argos coach Pinball Clemons paid tribute to Paopao.

"When I grow up I want to be just like him," Clemons said with a mixture of humour and sincerity. "He's as genuine and real a person as I've seen. He's a great football mind. A lot of times you have a situation like this where your team hasn't been as successful as maybe you'd like it. People even start to question your knowledge of the game, which is really ludicrous. With that, he, I believe, very quickly will land on his feet and be back doing what he does well.

"This was a wonderful sendoff. The fans were extremely respectful, showed him a lot of love."

Clemons elected not to play Allen, who watched from the sidelines while his backups, Michael Bishop and Charlie Peterson, collectively threw six interceptions and completed only 22 of 42 pass attempts for 265 yards. Peterson threw the only touchdown, hooking up with receiver Tony Miles.


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