MONTREAL - MONTREAL — The glass foundation on which the Argonauts built an offence headed by quarterback Cleo Lemon finally shattered on Sunday afternoon.
And the defence, normally the group of Argos that gave the team a shot at winning in most games, was exposed as breakable by a 38-year-old Anthony Calvillo, who will be in the Hall of Fame about a minute after he retires.
The result that many outside the Argos organization figured could happen became reality at Olympic Stadium in the East Division final, when the Montreal Alouettes trounced the Argos 48-17 before a crowd of 58,021.
“I am disappointed for our guys,” Argos head coach Jim Barker said. “It has been a beautiful journey with these guys. It’s a beginning for us and not an end.
“They beat us in every phase. There are no excuses. This was not an effort issue. This was a we-are-not-at-their-stage-right-now issue. We have to work our way to that point.”
The Alouettes will play for the Grey Cup for the third year in a row and will attempt to become the first team since the Argonauts in 1996 and ’97 to win back-to-back Cups.
Chad Owens, rendered ineffective early when the Als would not kick the ball to him, summed up the loss for all in the locker room.
“It hurts, but what can you do?” Owens said. “You have to move on, as hard as that might be right now.”
The game might have been the last with the Argos for general manager Adam Rita, as there has been speculation that his contract will not be renewed. Rita has been the GM for seven seasons, but Barker ran the draft last May and clearly was the man in charge when it came to consequent player moves.
The Argos, for the second week in a row, helped prove that what happens in the regular season means little in the playoffs. Twice in 2010, they handily beat the Alouettes, and won the four-game season series on points differential, 107-104. But that did not help them from getting smoked in this one.
Last Sunday, the Argos beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East semifinal after they were swept in three games by the Ticats during the regular season.
Toronto finished the season 9-9, a huge step forward after winning just seven games in the previous two years combined.
But the offence under Lemon never got into a consistent rhythm, and Barker’s stubborn refusal to look beyond Lemon didn’t help.
Barker said the team will address some issues it knows it has when the off-season is in full swing, and will Lemon be one of them? Whispers are persistent that the Argos are interested in quarterback Ricky Ray of the Edmonton Eskimos.
It wasn’t just Lemon and the offence that was out of synch. Calvillo made the defence appear as though it had not actually been together since June. The home side was up 17-0, a bulge that included an 85-yard punt return by Tim Maypray for a touchdown, before the game was nine minutes old. Calvillo picked apart the defence to the tune of 557 yards of net offence, throwing touchdown passes of 53 yards and 43 yards to Jamel Richardson.
Avon Cobourne ran for an embarrassingly high 163 yards and had a touchdown.
The Argos countered with three field goals from Noel Prefontaine and a 10-yard TD pass to Jeremaine Copeland from Dalton Bell in the final minute. Running back Cory Boyd was gone for good early in the fourth quarter with an injury.
“Don’t get me wrong, we did some good things this year,” Copeland said.
“We definitely turned the team around and went from a losing team to one that had a shot. But we’re not satisfied.”