Depend on Hardy

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

Chris Hardy sat at his corner locker last night, soaking it in.

Argos 38, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31 and it goes to show you, every dog has his day.

"Yeah," said Hardy, all full of playful bravado, "and this dog has had many."

Not many like last night. The Argos' 32-year-old backup safety and kicker hadn't kicked a ball in a game in four years. But when incumbent Noel Prefontaine went down with an injured hip on a kickoff return in the second quarter, Hardy found himself in the jungle.

He kicked three fourth-quarter field goals in as many tries, connecting from 18, 40 and 30 yards.

Now to tell Chris Hardy tell it, it was just a day's work.

"Our kicker's always trying to make tackles," he said. "You have to get used to him maybe being hurt."

On his first snap, Hardy pulled down the ball and nailed a 41-yard punt under pressure. Money.

In the fourth quarter, Hardy, already good from 18, lined up for his 40-yard field goal.

"There were guys on the team who were telling me to let him punt the ball," Clemons said. "I said 'no, he's going to make it.' "

"Who said that?" Hardy said after the game. "I want names."

Now, in the heart of every backup, there lies the absolute conviction that given a chance, he can make the decisive play. Hardy, an Edmonton native who spent six years in Alberta before coming East two years ago, is no different. Never mind the evidence.

"My last kick? Let me think," said Hardy. "That would be a 17-yarder for the Eskimos."

He waits a second before delivering the punchline.

"Wide left."

No seriously. "You can't think you're just going to do okay if you get the chance. You've got to believe it. All of us believe. That's why we're here."

He told Clemons he would nail the 40-yarder. "I damn well had to after that."

Hardy once booted a 48-yarder for Harry Ainley high school in Edmonton. "Wind aided," he said, "but still."

He was the difference last night, and he shouldn't have been.

EARLY LEAD

The Argos went up 28-0 before some of the 30,000 the SkyDome patrons reached their seats. Bashir Levingston ran back the opening kickoff and a failed field-goal attempt the length of the field. Clifford Ivory ran in an poor Danny McManus pass for another major. A pass interference penalty -- the poor Ticats could do nothing right -- paved the way for a Damon Allen one-yard major.

But a funny thing happened to the runaway. The Argos offence continually misfired. Allen, mindful of the lead, threw just six times in the first half, connecting on just four. The Argos lead was whittled down to 29-17 at the half.

The good news is the Argos clinched second place in the CFL East and will play host to the Tiger-Cats Nov. 5 in the division semi-final. The Ticats haven't won a regular season game here since July 2001 and they are a penalty and mistake prone outfit.

The bad news is that the Toronto offence only contributed one major in a 35-point night and the Ticats still had a chance to tie a game they once trailed by 28 in the game's final minute.

In his second game back from a broken leg, Allen completed 12 of 20 for 144 yards. He didn't throw an interception, didn't fumble the ball and didn't lose the game, so you can't fault him.

Neither, though, can you be impressed with the league's most ineffective offence and a defensive secondary that surrendered 439 yards to McManus, even if that came at a cost of four interceptions.

The Argos are 10-6-1, and that's enough winning for most anyone but there are concerns about the club's inability to stop the run and dominate a game offensively.

On the other hand, why worry? Chris Hardy isn't.


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