Als a good fit for Boatmen

Toronto Argonauts' Cleo Lemon and Cedric Gagne-Marcoux celebrate their win against the Hamilton...

Toronto Argonauts' Cleo Lemon and Cedric Gagne-Marcoux celebrate their win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:05 PM ET

More than any X or any amount of Os that get drawn up on the chalkboard, football is a sport of matchups.

Up until last week’s semifinal win in Hamilton, the Argos didn’t match up well against the Ticats in part due to the Ticats’ ability to dominate the line of scrimmage.

In three regular-season meetings, the Ticats were able to impose their will by winning the battle in the trenches.

It’s little wonder Argos head coach Jim Barker challenged his offensive line the first day Toronto huddled to prepare for the Ticats, imparting the need to out-physical a front seven that had its way during the regular season.

For those who missed Toronto’s improbable 16-13 win, the game came down to a drive that would begin on the Argos’ three-yard line, a sequence that involved excellent pass protection and run blocking that highlighted what offensive linemen refer to as an attitude.

Now comes the Als and an entirely different set of dynamics with a lot more at stake.

No one liked the Argos’ chances going into the Hammer and there’s virtually no chance of upending the defending Grey Cup champion Als if Toronto manages to post only 16 points.

But matchup-wise, the Argos fit well with the Als, who are not as physical up front as the Ticats and are vulnerable in the back end.

Defensively, the Argos will look to neutralize scatback Avon Cobourne, especially as a receiving threat in space, and try to disrupt Anthony Calvillo when he sets up in a shotgun.

The Argos will have opportunities to make plays when they have the ball because the Als like to go with a lot of man-to-man looks.

Naturally, they’ll throw in the occasional zone look, but Montreal, much like Calgary, is a high-risk, high-reward kind of defence that will attack, but one that can be victimized.

“It seems when we play them, we step up to the challenge,’’ Argos slotback Andre Durie said. “It’s all about working together and making big plays when opportunities are there.

“When you go up against a team that likes to play man to man, winning that individual battle is very important.”

In their two wins against the Als this season, Chad Owens gained huge chunks of yards when the Argos had him matched up in single coverage in the open field.

In the season finale, Spencer Watt’s deep threat could not be curtailed.

Weather won’t be an issue given the confines of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which could make Sunday’s East final a glorified track meet.

Plenty of motion, crossing routes and bubble screens, mixed in with the occasional downfield shot and it all adds up to a game that has the makings of the antithesis of last Sunday’s slugfest at Ivor Wynne.

“Because Montreal plays a lot of man-to-man coverage, one of my first reads will be with their safety,’’ Argos centre Dominic Picard said. “We’re going to have to be physical again and bring that same kind of attitude we brought last week.

“As a line, we wanted to put that game on our shoulders. When we began from our own three-yard line, the approach was to be physical. The way we ran the ball, moved the chains and kept the clock running, it gives us good momentum going into this week. We just have to keep it rolling.”

Sunday represents a dream come true for Picard. In 2001, the Quebec native attended the Grey Cup at the Big Owe and began to forge his pigskin dream.

“I wanted to start in a Grey Cup and I wanted to play in the Big O,’’ said Picard, who played in the championship game with Winnipeg three years ago.

With another Cup berth within his grasp, Picard hasn’t bothered to reach out to family and friends for ticket requests.

“I want no distractions,’’ he said.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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