Argos feeling late-season urgency

Toronto Argonauts practiced at Oakville's Holy Trinity school on Friday October 5, 2012.(MICHAEL...

Toronto Argonauts practiced at Oakville's Holy Trinity school on Friday October 5, 2012.(MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

TORONTO - There was something in the air that was hard to quantify, something not even head coach Scott Milanovich or his players could properly express.

Whether it’s that time of the year when the finish line is now in sight, the sight of players being added to the practice roster or whatever the case may be, Friday’s gathering in Oakville had a different feel to the occasion.

“There’s just this sense of urgency,’’ said Milanovich in attempting to describe the mood. “We’re starting to build our energy, which is always a good sign, because this is a huge game for us.”

For those who haven’t been following the plight of the Argos under Milanovich, a team that has yet to peak, it’s very rare for the rookie head coach to use words such as “huge’’ in sizing up an opponent.

Lest anyone reach any wrong conclusions, Milanovich has never spoken any ill will against any foe, but his usage of the term huge pretty much sums up Monday’s meeting against visiting Saskatchewan.

There’s a lot at stake for the Argos, who are slowly putting the pieces in place against a very dangerous Roughriders unit, a lot of unknowns that can only be addressed in a live setting, a chance to finally go on a roll.

No longer will the Argos have to worry about playing on the road, at least for the next three weeks as the coming schedule sees the Double Blue playing at home before they embark on their final road game of the regular season, an Oct. 27 date in Regina.

For the past month, fans of the team haven’t been able to watch the Argos in person.

More importantly, there are only five games left to be played and the Argos, assuming they can take care of their own business, have a legitimate shot of playing a home playoff game, perhaps even playing host to the East final.

And it starts on Monday.

It certainly helps a team such as the Argos when a routine is established, even when the exercise involves a bus ride to Oakville when the playing surface at U of T’s Mississauga campus was deemed insufficient.

Whether it was the players practising with a different mind-set, whether it was the coaching staff trying to extract more, the air was palpable at Friday’s session.

“The overall energy reflected the importance of this game,’’ added Milanovich.

The Argos should draw their biggest audience on Thanksgiving Monday, one of the benefits of having an opponent come to town such as Rider Nation, which makes its first and only regular-season visit to Toronto.

Both teams are 7-6 and both need to take that next step to be considered Grey Cup worthy.

At least for now, B.C. and Montreal are considered the class of the CFL, followed a group of teams that includes the Argos, Stamps and Roughriders.

“You start to make that push for the playoffs,’’ confided veteran defensive tackle Kevin Huntley, still looking for his first home playoff game during his three-year run as an Argo. “There’s a lot at stake, the fans will be excited and it’s always good when the fans are excited and a team has a lot to play for.”

Defining moments arrive in any season and virtually in every game, but Monday represents one of those season-defining backdrops.

A win provides a much-needed impetus with Montreal and Winnipeg looming.

A loss represents a setback that may end up costing the Argos.

It’s why Friday’s atmosphere had a feel unlike any other this season.

SCULLERS FILL UP PRACTICE ROSTER

 

 

Players come and go in the CFL quicker than leads get changed or passes attempted in any game.

The revolving door has the potential to pick up speed at this time of the season when teams are allowed to expand their practice roster.

The Argos are no exception, adding five players who may yet appear this season, but in all likelihood are being introduced as a potential piece for next season.

Whether it’s import offensive lineman Jake Anderson, kicker Josh Jasper, running back Emmanuel Marc, Ayanga Okpokowuruk or Donte Paige-Moss, each defensive linemen, the jury is still out.

Anderson attended training camp with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns this year, but was released as a final cut.

Jasper was signed by the Buccaneers in 2011 following a stellar NCAA career at LSU, while Marc has spent the last two seasons on the Montreal Alouettes practice roster.

Both Okpokowuruk and Paige-Moss have some impressive credentials, but now comes the hard part of convincing the Argos.

The rule of thumb is pretty simple: If a player dominates in practice, he’ll get a look in a game and at worst they’ll have a head-start on next season.

The Argos also announced that WR Chandler Williams had been removed from the club’s practice roster.


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