Thirst for first

Argo pivot Damon Allen runs hand offs with running back Sean Millington.  (SUN/Fred Thornhill)

Argo pivot Damon Allen runs hand offs with running back Sean Millington. (SUN/Fred Thornhill)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

This is all about the thirst for first.

If the Argos beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats tonight at the Rogers Centre, where a crowd of 35,000 is expected, they wrap up first in the East Division for the first time since 1997.

That was the year the Argos won their second consecutive Grey Cup, something that is in prospect this season.

"I think with what we've gone through as a unit the last three years -- since we've pretty much all been together -- we'd like to win first place," backup safety/special teams star Chris Hardy said yesterday. "We can handle our own business now and destiny is in our hands, whereas we always had to go through Montreal or go through another team first to get to Montreal.

"If we want to play like chumps in the last two games (of the regular season) we can do that, or we can go out and take care of business, get better and play the one game for all the marbles. As a team, one of our goals at the beginning of the year was to make the playoffs, get first, go to the Grey Cup and win the Grey Cup. This is one of the cogs in the wheel."

Right now the wheel is spinning in the right direction with two wins in a row, including a key 49-23 thrashing of the Montreal Alouettes to move within a win of clinching first.

The most recent time the Argos played the Tiger-Cats, some six week ago at the Rogers Centre, Toronto won 48-0. Five days before in Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats won 33-30.

"We expect we will see a team that is excited to play football having beaten us on Labour Day and then probably having their most difficult result of the season," Argos head coach Pinball Clemons said.

"They had great effort in that football game. They just didn't get the bounces. They're going to be out to prove that they're a much, much better football team than that score had indicated. In addition, they're a team that has played better of late."

While Clemons said the Argos are treating the game like it's part of the playoffs, Hamilton counterpart Greg Marshall said it's strictly a matter of his team playing for pride.

"We want players now on our team who care," he said.

Argos quarterback Damon Allen, who has thrown for more than 400 yards in each of his past two games, said his team has to approach the game with energy and commitment.

"Both teams have something at stake," he said. "It's going to be a competitive game and as long as we go in thinking (that way) and we're going to have to be at our best then we'll be ready to go. What we need to do as a football team is play sound in all three phases of the game, eliminate our turnovers and penalties.

"When we're able to do that and play the way we're capable of in all three phases, we feel that we'll win the football game. And really that's the bottom line."


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