Argos finally get to the big game

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

They did it. They finally did it.

Maybe head coach Pinball Clemons was right all along.

Maybe the third time was the charm.

Or maybe in the year of the upsets in professional sports, there simply remained a story line for the oldest professional sports franchise in North America.

A 131-year-old franchise that had fallen into bankruptcy the year before and was resurrected with a dream to build it back to respectability with a new home in 2006.

Possibly with a banner that will read Home of the 2004 Grey Cup champions.

The Argos earned the right to play in the Canadian Football League championship game in Ottawa on Sunday after beating the Montreal Alouettes 26-18 yesterday at Olympic Stadium in front of a crushed crowd of 51,296. The Argos will meet the B.C. Lions, who beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 27-25 earlier yesterday at B.C. Place.

This was the third consecutive time the Argos had faced the Alouettes in their own building in the division final and, finally, they beat them.

"These guys has been together and they've gone through a lot of adversity the last couple of years and they really have hung together and they're like a family and I'm just so extremely proud of them and the work that they've put in," Clemons said.

Okay, so this achievement is not like the Red Sox coming back from three-nil to beat the Yankees this year, but it's big, even moreso when you take into account where the franchise had been last year and where it is now and where it hope sto be in the future.

The Argos didn't just win a game; they helped to forge a dream of believability in anyone who doubted they could beat the Als and, even moreso, anyone who doubted the relevance of this sports franchise.

"It's a miracle. I can't even explain it," said Argos co-owner David Cynamon, who along with partner Howard Sokolowski took over the franchise roughly a year ago. "We just always find a way to win. These guys just come together.

'SHOCKED'

"I'm shocked that we beat Montreal like that. I'm obviously happy. I'm ecstatic, but I'm in awe. I'm in absolute awe of these athletes on this team and having sacrificed. And I don't know better because I don't know any other teams."

"I can't believe what these guys have gone through," Sokolowski said. "Three times this year they've played three games in 10 days. No team has had nearly as difficult a schedule as we had. Why are we going to the Grey Cup? Because of Michael (Clemons) and the coaching staff and the heart of these players. Absolutely."

It is players such as quarterback Damon Allen, the eldest player in the league at age 41 and a grandfather, who showed he still has the arms and legs to compete and win.

And defensive lineman Eric England, who laid a solid but clean hit on Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo and knocked him out of the game early in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.

And rookie cornerback Jordan Younger, who was tested repeatedly but didn't wilt.

And tailback John Avery, who sacrificed his body as a blocking back because the scheme called for him to do that instead of running the ball.

And receiver/return specialist Arland Bruce, who did so many things so well.

These are but a few of the heroes. In all, it was a team victory in the truest sense, led by a head coach who appeared in the post-game news conference wearing a T-shirt with a picture of his father, Willie J. Bro Clemons, who died earlier this year of heart failure at age 62. The last game he saw his son coach was last year in the divisional final.

"Son, you'll get 'em next year," the elder Clemons said.

How right he was.


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