So long, gentleman Joe

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Renegades 27, Argonauts 17

It was a rare dry day at Frank Clair Stadium, one of the few times this season Mother Nature didn't dump rain on a Renegades game and the team's dwindling faithful.

Then the final gun sounded, and things got wet in a hurry.

First came the bucket of ice water Yo Murphy dumped over coach Joe Paopao to mark Ottawa's campaign-ending 27-17 victory over a reasonable facsimile of the Toronto Argos.

"It was cold, exhilarating," Paopao would say later. "You don't get those when you lose. You get the bucket when you win. Hopefully, there are other buckets down the road."

There will be no more for Paopao on the Renegades sideline, however. And the fact it was his last game as coach of this team caused more waterworks. Players, coaches, staff and fans alike shed a tear for a guy who has to be one of the most beloved coaches in Ottawa sports history.

The fans chanted his name after he took the bucket. They stood and cheered, and he waved back before finally taking off his Aloha shirt he wears to "celebrate life" and throwing it up to the South-side stands.

"Sometimes, when you're playing short of expectations, those people are on your back ... they drop some F-bombs," said Paopao. "I say to the guys, 'they're just trying to push you, make you better. Take that energy they expound on you.'

"(Last night) was appreciated. I'm grateful and thankful to be recognized on a personal level like that. All I can say is thanks."

Asked about the game ball that lay on the table before him, Paopao cracked.

"It was from the players ... a hearty thanks," he said, choking up and swelling with tears. "And thank you back. I'll remember it. I'll remember it."

He'll be remembered, too. And fondly.

At the risk of sounding corny, you should know that the rain started almost exactly at the end of Paopao's final press conference, and I might suggest that it was the Gods of Lansdowne weeping as they too said their goodbyes to Gentleman Joe.

No matter how many games he wins, John Jenkins has an extremely tough act to follow.

High and Outside:

In a display of solidarity, Renegades coaches wore identical Aloha shirts on the sidelines. It was suggested to Paopao that they were like Tom Cruise and his fellow warriors making their final charge in The Last Samurai. To which Paopao replied: "Yeah, but there's a difference. We live, they didn't." ... There was some concern from above that the shirts were going to cost the Renegades $10,000 in fines (five shirts, five CFL equipment policy violations), but CFL official Jacques Decarie told Lonie Glieberman there would be no penalty as the coaches were not showing any brand names whatsoever. Paopao was probably unsure if he was breaking the rules, and perhaps didn't care one way or the other. But he offered a lighthearted coverup just in case. "I'd like to thank Reebok for the Aloha shirts and being a part of our team this year," he told CBC reporter Bruce Reinnie in a at the half ... Only two other quarterbacks in 100 or so years of CFL play have managed the 4,000 (passing), 1,000 (rushing) feat accomplished by Kerry Joseph this season. But he also led the league in interceptions (23) and had to be right up there in fumbles (14, six lost). By all means, if Joseph's contract is restructured and he returns to quarterback the Renegades, he should again have a bonus clauses that pays him for reaching 1,000 yards rushing. But he should also lose money for every one-bouncer he throws. Joseph had to lead the league in that frustrating habit this season ... Former Renegades Carl Coulter and Darren Joseph watched the game from the sidelines near the Renegades bench. "I wanted to give a hug to Joe," said Coulter, who adds that he's considering coming out of retirement in 2006. Maybe he's even serious.

Sideline to Sideline:

If only the season were just a little longer, Korey Banks might surpass Pat Woodcock in number of passes caught ... Gotta like Banks, who at training camp set the lofty goal of 11 interceptions on the season then came within a second-half deflection yesterday of reaching it. "It's official," he said of the one pick that did get him the league crown in the category. "I'm off by one from my goal, but that gives me something to try for next year." You can only hope he's back. "Money will be a factor," he told reporters before Damon Allen whisked him away for a private conversation ... Kyries Hebert's third interception of the game set a Renegades record but came one short of the all-time 'Ottawa Football' mark. That belongs to former Rough Rider Chris Sigler, who picked off four passes in a game against Montreal in 1986.

Late Hits:

FB Cory Hathaway is the deserving winner of the inaugural Don Holtby award, which will be given to the Renegades top Canadian ...If I'm a Renegades season-ticket holder, I'm not renewing unless I'm promised that PA (Perpetually Annoying) announcer Sylvain Laundry will be permanently unplugged ... It's great and fun to see a team play over the edge, care-free football, but Hebert went over the top of when he blindly threw the ball over his shoulder in hopes that a teammate might come up with it on his second interception. He's lucky one did ... A first-class training staff is now available for work, as the Renegades have terminated Steve Dias and his assistant, Phil Jewel.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com.


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