East showdown

Argos prepare on Thursday for game against Montreal under the Big O.  In this pic Argo pivot Damon...

Argos prepare on Thursday for game against Montreal under the Big O. In this pic Argo pivot Damon Allen runs hand offs with running back Sean Millington. (SUN/Fred Thornhill)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET

MONTREAL -- It all has come down to this.

After several days of hype, the Argos and Montreal Alouettes play today at Olympic Stadium in a game which will all but lock up first place in the East Division for the winning team.

Both teams have 9-6 records and have split the two games they've played against one another this year. They have two games remaining on the regular-season schedule.

The previous time the two teams played at the Big Owe, the Argos won the 2004 East Division final, 26-18. They beat the Als 36-24 at Molson Stadium in the first game they played one another this season, then Montreal won 18-10 in Toronto.

"When you get to this point where both teams are 9-6 and you're only a couple weeks from the end of the season and first place is really on the line, you expect that to make this potentially one of the best of the matchups thus far," Argos head coach Pinball Clemons said.

"I would say that whoever wins this game would certainly be the odds-on favourite to host the Eastern final," Als head coach Don Matthews said. "Both teams are capable of winning one of the next two after this one."

Argos quarterback Damon Allen, who has registered two consecutive victories against the Als in games in which he has started and finished, said the Argos can draw on their past successes against the Als.

"Understand that we're playing a very good football team and the challenge is for us to play well," he said. "We have to trust we've done it before and we can come up with big games as a football team. The only thing left is to play the game now."

The Als had a 4-5 mark at the halfway point of the season and trailed the Argos by four points. The Als organization and coaching staff huddled together and decided to make some key changes, particularly on defence in terms of bigger personnel on the line and limiting the blitz pressure they applied on almost every down. The combination of the defence and the offence coming together has produced four wins in the past five games.

REVAMPED DEFENCE

"A lot of credit goes to our coaching staff and management," slotback Ben Cahoon said. "We revamped our whole defence in mid-year and that took some serious coaching and some serious adjusting."

Argos centre Chad Folk acknowledged the Als' changes.

"Their defence struggled earlier in the year and as of late they've changed quite a bit," he said. "But it's nothing we haven't seen in the past from other teams in the league."

Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo said his team has developed confidence by being able to win some close games of late after losing in similar situations earlier in the year.

"That changes the mental aspect of our team," he said. "Now instead of thinking 'are we going to lose that one?' people are starting to think it doesn't matter where we are or how far we're behind, we've got a chance to win this."


Videos

Photos