Allen's last challenge?

Argonauts' Damon Allen. (Sun)

Argonauts' Damon Allen. (Sun)

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

MONTREAL -- He can deny it, talk around it and even get mad at the mere mention of it.

But at 1 p.m. today at Olympic Stadium, Toronto Argonauts quarterback Damon Allen no longer can avoid it.

Seven days after being benched in the CFL's Eastern semi-final, the 43-year-old quarterback gets yet another chance to prove his doubters wrong.

On the line in today's clash against the Montreal Alouettes is more than just the opportunity to earn an all-expenses paid trip to Winnipeg for next Sunday's 94th Grey Cup.

Also hanging in the balance is a shot to right a frustrating season for the Argos offence and hints that Allen has become an aging quarterback whose time, if not up, is winding down.

The second-guessing is nothing new for pro football's career leading passer, a fact not lost on his teammates, who love the way he attacks such adversity.

"Every time I've seen that guy challenged he's responded, simple as that," Argos linebacker Michael Fletcher said yesterday after the team's walkthrough at the Big O.

"When he's got that quiet, reserved demeanor that he's had all week, he's gonna play with his hair on fire.

"There's nothing that guy likes more than to prove people wrong."

Allen did admit yesterday that he wasn't pleased at getting the hook midway through the fourth quarter of last week's East Division semi-final at the Rogers Centre.

What was supposed to be one series under Michael Bishop for Allen to regroup turned into a 14-point rally in less than two minutes as the Argos stunned the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"I'm a competitor and nobody likes to be pulled," Allen said yesterday. "If I wasn't upset, it would be time for me to move on to something else."

Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons says the situation Allen finds himself in today is one that has dogged him for much of his two decades-plus in the league.

"He got a break with the love-in when he passed 70,000 passing yards (in August), everyone telling him how wonderful he is," Clemons said.

"And now, just in time for the playoffs, thank-you very much, they are questioning him again so he will prove himself admirably."

Though the time for excuses and second-guessing has passed, Allen did miss a handful of games with a broken finger that he still can't bend fully. Many feel that has taken some of the zip from his passes.

It wouldn't hurt if he got some big-game production out of running back Ricky Williams, the former NFL rushing star who has had a marginal impact up north.

But with a defence that surrendered a league-low 333 points in the regular season, he doesn't need much. And the Argos do have ample weapons such as receiver Arland Bruce III, Williams and running back John Avery.

Allen accepts the responsibility of being the offensive leader and the challenge that goes with it, part of the reason he studiously avoided the media for five days this past week.

"I know when to see a distraction for me personally and what I need to do to get ready to play," Allen said. "Like your mom and dad always told you, if there's something distracting from what you need to do, then you have to get rid of it."

With a Grey Cup date on the line, today he gets the chance.


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