Sink or swim time for Argos
By IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency
|Argos head coach Scott Milanovich and quarterback Ricky Ray talk strategy as the Boatmen prepare to meet Saskatchewan. (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun)
TORONTO - In a season full of frustrating curves in the road, the Toronto Argonauts have reached the precipice.
Come Saturday, there are basically two possible paths available. They can fall off the edge and into football oblivion, all but crushing any remaining sense of confidence this fragile team might have. Or they can rediscover what it feels like to have a chance, while renewing some of that swagger offered up in sample sizes earlier in the season.
Really, when you strip away everything else, that’s what this game on the prairie is all about.
A loss against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Argos are officially pretenders — they’ll sink into a mocked category currently occupied by the Winnipegs and Hamiltons of the CFL.
A win might not change everything, but the Scullers would have relevance once again, and at a time of year when that sort of thing is imperative.
Of course, there is another thing a win this weekend would ensure: A playoff berth in a season Toronto hosts the 100th Grey Cup.
And for a team that came into the season with high hopes of contending for the title on home soil — er, turf — securing a spot on the dancefloor is the first order of business and one that certainly isn’t being overlooked.
The Boatmen can clinch an East semi-final playoff game at home with either a win over the Riders or a Ticats loss. Hamilton hosts Winnipeg earlier in the afternoon on Saturday.
“That’s the great thing about this league, we win one game and we can turn everything around,” veteran running back Jeff Johnson said following Thursday's final tuneup in Oakville before jetting off to land of potash and wheat.
“That’s what we’re looking to do. We’ve struggled the past few weeks, but it starts with the next game,” Johnson added. “Right now, it’s about winning that next game.”
While the Argos have dug themselves into a hole — three straight losses that generate as much confidence among the faithful as an NHL lockout meeting — it’s not yet a grave.
And the Argos do have talent on their side. It’s just that, while Ricky Ray’s return was quick to spark the offence last week, one of the league’s supposedly better defences hasn’t been able to stop a snail lately. And considering the lopsided losses, special teams has been relegated to non-factor.
If the Argos are capable of being a well-oiled machine, the proof has yet to surface.
To get there, it’s about getting back to three-facet football again, something this team has shown it’s capable of in spurts, but is intent on mastering consistently.
“Last week, Ricky comes back and our offence starts to click, but we had challenges in other phases of the game,” Johnson said. “This week, we go close those things up and we get the momentum going and all it takes is one game.
“It’s long overdue.”
If the aggressiveness of the Riders — and their fans — isn’t enough to contend with, Saturday's forecast is calling for chilly temperatures in Regina, which is an element the Argos have not faced this season.
“The play-calling may change slightly based on the weather and how the flow of the game is going,” head coach Scott Milanovich said. “But I think it’s a mindset for the players and I don’t think there’s a lot you can do to prepare for it.”
The coach did say his team has done a good job preparing for what it can control this week, and now it’s time to generate something from that hard work.
“We need to get some momentum going if we’re able to make it into the playoffs,” Milanovich said. “But at this point, all we need to worry about is trying to get a win.”
The Boatmen could get a boost on offence, as receiver Dontrelle Inman, who has been sidelined to injury, is expected to be a game-time decision.