November 14, 2012
Expect shootout between Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - A lot has been said and written and much more will be dissected and debated in the days, even hours, leading up to Sunday's East final.
Even the most casual followers of three-down football must concede the game will be decided at the quarterback position, which it invariably boils down to at this time of the season when so much is on the line.
Despite his brilliance in last year's semifinal against Hamilton, the fact remains Anthony Calvillo got off to a poor start, the victim of poor protection, the author of a turnover the Ticats would parlay into points on a day when overtime was required.
In last weekend's semifinal win over Edmonton, Ricky Ray didn't exactly begin the game on the right foot, catching a break when miscommunication led to an interception in the end zone, a play video review would later overturn.
In football, it's not how one starts, it's how one finishes, but Sunday's meeting between the Argos and Als, a battle that will ultimately be decided by Ray and Calvillo, is a game where even the slightest error will be magnified.
There's momentum on Toronto's side, winners of three straight, a team that has peaked at the right time, there's the comfort of playing at home for a Montreal team whose recent history is one where it cashes on a bye week by advancing to the Grey Cup.
As is the norm in any CFL game, let alone a post-season matchup of this consequence, a lot will happen, a lot of big plays will be made and yielded.
For Ray, there's only one guarantee.
"It's not going to be a 7-6 game,'' Ray said. "You have to expect that it's going to be a high-scoring game."
The amount of points that eventually get scored will depend, naturally, on how well each defence plays against two proven quarterbacks, two hall of fame quarterbacks known for two different styles and one common trait.
As someone who has worked with both quarterbacks, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich knows how each is committed to every game, how each prepares every week with the same focus and purpose.
Given Sunday's stage, anything short of great quarterback play will be considered a huge disappointment under a backdrop that is more in line with a Grey Cup than an East final.
In Montreal, head coach Marc Trestman has described Ray as "Ice Man'' and "Houdini.''
For a guy who pays no attention to the noise around him, Ray admitted it wasn't until teammate and ex-Als receiver Danny Desriveaux apprised Ray of Trestman's description.
"Each coach has their own way to prepare and motivate their team,'' said Ray of Trestman. "I try to be calm, cool and play within myself. I don't know about the Houdini stuff, a magician, escape artist, or whatever he does."
If given time, both Calvillo and Ray will pick apart any defence.
When they met during the regular season, the Als took the series, 2-1, the only game they lost was in the first meeting at McGill Stadium, the only time Ray would start and finish a game against Montreal.
The Argos have pretty much stayed true to their identity on defence, a press man-coverage team that will bring pressure and attack from every angle.
The Als will bring pressure, but the team's personnel has changed during the course of the season.
"You look at a guy like Dwight Anderson,'' Ray said. "He's at the boundary corner. Before, he was at field halfback."
Unless defences are able to deliver a knock out blow, the game will be decided on the defence that forces the opponent to settle for field goals.
Calvillo and Ray are just too good to be stopped, too poised and polished to get rattled, two all-time greats going toe to toe in the game within the game that will decide the East's representative in the historic Grey Cup.
BELLI OUT TO GET A.C.
Adriano Belli has sacked just about every quarterback he's ever opposed, almost taking advantage of whatever opportunity to crush a signal caller.
One quarterback has proven to be elusive, the one guy Belli has never sacked.
"A.C.," said Belli of Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo, Belli's one-time teammate and the one standing between Belli and his dream of playing for the milestone 100th Grey Cup in his home town.
"Even when Danny Mac (McMannus) played in his prime, I was able to get to him. Not A.C. He's the only quarterback I've yet to sack."
No one has more respect for the veteran Calvillo than Belli, whose return to Toronto's defensive line has added some much-needed depth and levity.
And no one would relish a clear shot at Calvillo more than Belli.
"If I get a chance to lay a licking, nothing will be held back,'' Belli added. "This isn't two-hand touch, it's tackle football."
Getting to Calvillo is no easy task given his quick release.
The key, as it always is when facing Calvillo, is to disrupt his rhythm.