Not the way Allen wants things to end

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The last man found in Argos blue sat at his locker, still wearing his knee brace, still wearing his shoulder pads, not ready to go anywhere.

Not to Vancouver.

Not to retirement.

"You never want to end your career like this," Damon Allen said, with his eyes sadder than his words. "Everyone wants a story. When I retire, I'll let you all know."

He was speaking in the quiet whispering of the locker room, trying to explain what seemed unexplainable after the Argos defeated the Argos in yesterday's Eastern final.

He was speaking as various players walked around, shook hands, said their thanks and good-byes. He was speaking as Michael Clemons moved slowly through the room, speaking softly to the players one by one, shaking hands, hugging. All of it emotional.

The end of any season that doesn't conclude with a championship is like this, only this seemed worse.

This was morose.

This was self-inflicted.

"It really is the unthinkable," coach Clemons said.

"It doesn't matter who you blame ... we still lost."

Don Matthews is going to the Grey Cup for about the 100th time after the Montreal Alouettes emerged with a 33-17 victory in the Eastern final at a loud and almost sold-out place that used to be called the SkyDome.

The Alouettes deserved the win. The Argos played the role of unfortunate participants in their own demise.

They blocked their own field goal, which isn't easy. Their ace return specialist -- Bashir Levingston, who does nothing else -- fumbled twice. A cornerback with nothing but end zone between him and the ball couldn't make the interception. All this happened in between the two interceptions Allen threw to go along with the fumble that was stripped from him in the second half.

Unlike most of his teammates, Allen will be on his way to Vancouver to pick up the most outstanding player award. The award will be given to him after his least effective game of an otherwise brilliant season. The ending doesn't seem right or fair for a 42-year-old genius who deserves a better story, but that was just part of the disappointment of yesterday.

Part of what Pinball called the "unthinkable."

"He doesn't want this to be his last game," said Clemons, who said Allen will be welcomed back to the Argos, even if not all of his teammates will be.

"We're there to win," Allen said.

"That's what you do this for. That's what you sacrifice your body for. It's tough, tough to lose, especially the way we lost. We didn't take advantage. We gave them some confidence. You can say we let them back in the ball game."

The Argos led 14-0, and then piece by messy piece came apart. They stopped moving the ball. After their second touchdown they punted four times, threw two interceptions, fumbled a punt, fumbled a kickoff, fumbled after a pass reception, and watched Noel Prefontaine bank a field goal off his own offensive lineman's back.

And even then, there was still a chance. That's how average and fallible the Alouettes were.

Anthony Calvillo threw a pass that Argos cornerback Jordan Younger read perfectly in the fourth quarter. If he makes the interception, it's a touchdown and the Argos take the lead.

Only he doesn't catch it.

"That's a play a professional had to make," said a downcast Younger afterward. "I've been playing long enough to know you have to make that play. I have six months to think about it now."

Six months for the players to think. Six months for the Argos to determine which players they want and don't want.

They may not be so welcoming to R. Jay Soward, the mercurial receiver who scored the second touchdown then celebrated by grabbing a bag of popcorn from fans.

They may not be so welcoming to Levingston, who put two on the ground yesterday and once tackled himself on what seemed a possible touchdown run.

And they will have to look at their own preparation as well.

Heading into the Eastern final, they announced they will host the Grey Cup two years from now, and on Saturday posed for a newspaper photo indicating as though they already had won a championship.

They did. But that was last year. This year is over.

"It's not the end," said Damon Allen, talking about his career, not the season. "I have a desire to come back."


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