Labour Day Classic 'like a Grey Cup'

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:11 PM ET

Before the noon hour on Thursday, less than 1,000 tickets remained for the Labour Day Classic on Monday at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton between the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats.

For Argos running back Jeff Johnson, who will play in his 11th consecutive Classic, the excitement building up for the game is nothing new. And though the games in the past several years have not meant much in the East Division standings, unlike this one, where second place is up for grabs, there has been an electric atmosphere.

“It’s like a Grey Cup in the middle of the season,” Johnson said. “It’s the most exciting game of the season in terms of the energy . Going in there, there is a lot of animosity toward us, but is makes the game that much more fun and exciting.”

The Argos are 6-1 in their past seven visits to Ivor Wynne.

Argos head coach Jim Barker, back when he was the co-offensive co-ordinator with the Boatmen in 1997-98, recalled once getting beaned in the head with a battery.

“They were probably throwing it at (former head coach Don) Matthews and I just happened to be near him,” Barker said. “You hope they have some class about it, but you never know. I have tried to prepare the team for it, that you have to stay focused on the task at hand, and you can’t get involved in anything else.”

SOUND CHECK

During most of practice on Thursday, the offence had to deal with noise being blasted from a pair of speakers placed 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. While the crowd sounds won’t be as deafening at Ivor Wynne, sell out or not, it helped quarterback Cleo Lemon and others prepare for what will be, at best, a hostile environment.

“You have to be on the same page, especially with the cadence,” Lemon said. “Everyone moving at the same time, those seconds count, when you are trying to attack down field, especially with the guys on the outside.”

Lemon has used a silent count at times this season, and will rely on signals to his receivers if the noise gets out of hand.

Assistant general manager Ian Sanderson had the unenviable task of driving the golf cart that held the blaring speakers.

In the view of Barker, it was just another way to get his players to concentrate.

“It is more unnerving of how it is to have that sound in your ear all the time that it forces you to focus on what you are doing and not allow it to distract you,” Barker said.

INJURY UPDATE

Neither tackle Adriano Belli (foot) nor slotback Jeremaine Copeland (elbow) will play in Hamilton, Barker confirmed.

One player who could make his debut this season is receiver James Robinson. It would make sense with the release this week of fellow import Jeffery Webb.

Robinson and non-import Spencer Watt both got reps with the first team on Thursday.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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