The same message was drilled into the Argonauts’ heads repeatedly this week.
“There is a danger,” quarterback Cleo Lemon said on Thursday after the Argos’ walkthrough at their practice facility in Mississauga. “Coach (Jim) Barker and all of the coaches have done a great job of stressing that, not to have a big letdown.
“We’ve come out with a lot of focus, and that’s a result of him being so persistent in that area. Guys responded, and they’re starting to see now that we have something special.”
The Argos slayed a large dragon last Saturday at the Rogers Centre when they ran their 2010 home record to 3-0 with a pasting of the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes. Certainly, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who come into the Rogers Centre with two wins in their past two games and riding on the back of former Argo Arland Bruce III, aren’t going to be taken any differently.
The clubs meet again on Sept. 6 at Ivor Wynne Stadium in the annual Labour Day Classic, and for a refreshing change, games between these teams halfway through the season have some meaning other than being fodder in a rivalry that has fallen on hard times in recent years.
But Barker, as Lemon said, had to remind his players that excising the Montreal demons won’t amount to much if the Argos don’t show up on Friday night. Both the Argos and Ticats are looking at 17 days between games thanks to the coming bye week.
“Traditionally in this league, the bye-week game is difficult because guys are making plans to go home, and they are thinking about everything but the task at hand,” Barker said. “The focus has been on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Friday night, period.”
The offence has been coming into scope since the first snap in the season opener in Calgary, and Lemon demonstrated against Montreal an affinity for putting the ball in the air. That became paramount when the Als, more or less, shut down running back Cory Boyd.
Six days later, Boyd wants to take his frustrations out on a defence that is mediocre against the run. Boyd gave some insight into his success, agreeing with the assertion that he plays angry.
“I definitely do,” Boyd said. “This is a physical game and you don’t want to be out there doing too much finessing, trying to dance around guys, because that’s when fumbles tend to happen.
“At any given time, if you let up and be easy, then you can wind up on someone’s highlight film or on TSN getting smacked in the mouth. And that’s something I don’t want to do. I do the smacking, I don’t want anybody to smack me.
“I try to strike fear into the defender, before he can do it to me, even though it really is going to take a lot to strike fear into me.”
Lucas steps in
Though the loss of slotback Jeremaine Copeland could hurt the Argos as he recovers from a dislocated left elbow, it’s important to note that he was gone for almost all of the game versus Montreal. Chad Lucas will take Copeland’s spot at the position against Hamilton, while another import, Jeffery Webb, will be at receiver after missing four games with a groin injury.
If all falls into place, then the Argos won’t miss a beat. That has been part of Barker’s mantra as well, that there shouldn’t be a big dropoff in performance when starters get hurt.
Most of all though, Barker wants to see another step taken forward. If that happens, and the Argos win, they will be one victory shy of the seven wins they totalled in the previous two seasons.
“That’s what we gauge ourselves by — are we going to be better than we were last Saturday night?” Barker said. “That’s the goal.”