Argos trying to curtail gangs, violence in T.O.

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

TORONTO -- You have to tip your hat to the Toronto Argos.

The team is fighting for first place in the CFL East Division, but the organization deserves even more credit for where this team is going, away from Rogers Centre and its usual practice facility.

The Argos gathered on their main practice field at the University of Toronto campus in Mississauga yesterday - but this team practised twice in the last few weeks in tough neighbourhoods.

Another practice in another socio-economically challenged area is likely on the schedule soon.

It is all part of the Stop The Violence campaign the Argos are spearheading this summer/fall to help end a recent rash of shootings.

More than 30 people have been killed in T.O. already this year by gunshots.

"The most important role we play in this community is not wins and losses, it's the affect we can have on the community," said head coach Mike Clemons, who lost his father-in-law to a gunshot.

"Our desire is to be Toronto's ultimate role model."

That's why the Argos are going into the tough areas of the city, hoping star players will connect with kids and teenagers being lured into gangs and violence.

Linebacker Michael Fletcher - who was raised in Compton, California, one of the toughest communities in North America - freely admits he has lost more than 24 people in his life to gunshots.

Three of his brothers were in gangs.

"I wish I could be an example to show that - despite all of what is around you - you can still live your dream," said Fletcher.

"You don't have to fall into (the violence) trap."

CROSS OVER CROSSOVER

The Saskatchewan Roughriders need to avoid falling into fourth place in the West Division and crossing over to the East Division playoff picture because the Montreal Alouettes own the Green and White.

The Riders have won just twice against Montreal in the last 20 games, a brutal string that stretches back to 1996.

With three games remaining, Saskatchewan can finish anywhere from second to fourth.

HUNT FOR 6,000 REPEAT

If Montreal's Anthony Calvillo averages 365 yards in the last four games of the season, he will become the first quarterback in CFL history to throw for 6,000 yards in back-to-back regular-season campaigns. Doug Flutie is the only pivot in league history to hit the 6,000-yard mark twice: 6,619 in B.C. in 1991 and 6,092 in Calgary in 1993.

SHORT YARDAGE: Thankfully, the eight-week streak of silence on CBC ends at 11 a.m. today when Mark Lee and Darren Flutie call the Edmonton-Toronto tilt. "It was kind of tough," said Lee, remembering the brutal stretch in Canadian sports TV history. "So many times, the games cried out for explanation."

And Lee definitely heard the critics suggesting it was a better game when silent.

"Here we were - locked out and not getting paid - and yet we were being kicked while we were down."

LATE HITS: The Edmonton-Hamilton trade from last week will really look lopsided if Brock Ralph doesn't sign with the Tiger-Cats in the off-season and Troy Davis does ink a deal with the Eskimos. Both players are free agents at the end of the year ... Will Eric Tillman resurface with a prominent role in Ottawa or Hamilton once the season ends? The rumours are definitely swirling ... Yes, that is Commonwealth Stadium as the backdrop in the Subway commercial, which airs practically every two minutes on every sports TV program.

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HITS & MISSES

HIT

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter Saturday night, Anthony Calvillo dictated the terms, leading Montreal to victory over Saskatchewan. Scored the game-winning touchdown with his two feet, plus threw two TD strikes and didn't throw a pick.

MISS

One week after pinpoint passing against the Eskimos, Danny McManus was terrible against Ottawa, throwing two interceptions and seven completions before being yanked.

HIT

With another pick Saturday, Montreal ball hawk Richard Karikari leads the league with nine interceptions in 14 games.

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NUMBERS GAME

2 - Number of touchdowns Ottawa linebacker Kyries Hebert has scored this season after receiving a lateral from a defensive teammate.

3 - Number of picks among the first 10 in the 2006 CFL college draft for Hamilton.

4 - Number of touchdowns for the Riders' Elijah Thurmon in last two games at B.C. Place.

10 - Number of days, counting today, until the CFL trade deadline.

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

- " We could be back here (in Vancouver) three more times this year.''

- Riders' Reggie Hunt, referring to his team's Grey Cup hopes

- " Hell yeah, it's tough. It's awful.''

Bombers' GM Brendan Taman on his team's 4-10 season

- " I think (Troy) can help me a little bit more than my wife can on Monday.''

- Danny Maciocia on his Friday night date with Troy Davis to review plays

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GAME OF THE WEEK

SASK. VS. EDMONTON

SASKATCHEWAN @ EDMONTON, SATURDAY, 1 P.M.

It will be the biggest game of the year for both teams. The Riders need second place to host the first playoff game in Regina since 1988. The Green and White hold the season series lead by just one point - but haven't won a regular-season game at Commonwealth Stadium since 2000. However, the Riders won on Edmonton's grass last year in the playoffs.


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