MONTREAL -- Autumn is in the air as the Argos and Alouettes get set for their second clash of the season this Sunday, and with both teams battling for top spot in the East Division, it’s hard to pick a game so far this season that’s had bigger meaning on the field and in the standings than this one.
|A new chapter?|
With a win on Sunday, the Toronto Argonauts will win the season-series over the Montreal Alouettes - something they have not done since the 2005 season.
While the Als sit one game ahead in the standings with a hold of top spot in the division, the pressure is on for a win in Sunday’s battle for a number of reasons.
First, a win this weekend would give the Argos the highly-coveted tie-breaker, thanks to an exciting 23-20 win for the Boatmen back in July. That means that whichever team can manage to take two out of three meetings or better this season will have a little bit of a cushion going into the final stretch.
Second, while the Argos appear to have an easier path down the stretch with four of their remaining six games at the Rogers Centre, including on October 14 against the Alouettes, things only get harder for Montreal.
The Als play just twice at home in their final six games, and with a 2-3 record away from Percival Molson Stadium so far this season, that doesn’t bode so well.
Montreal currently sports a 4-1 record at home, with their one loss coming to the very same Boatmen they’re about to host on Sunday, and with a difficult road ahead for a football team coming off its best stretch of football this season, a two-game lead coming out of the weekend would be a huge boost.
We’ve learned that no single game will ever define a season in the CFL, especially when we’re talking about the Argos and Als, but if there’s a game that comes close so far, this would be the one.
Battle of the legends
No matter what you’ve already accomplished, there’s always something left to prove. The same holds true for Calvillo and Ray, two future hall of famers set to duel for the second time this season.
When you think of the greatest pure passers the league has ever seen, their names top the list. When you think of all-time greats, they’re also up there.
Since Ray moved to the East Division, we’ve been given the pleasure of seeing the league’s greatest passers going head to head and looking to lead their respective teams to a division championship and eventually, a Grey Cup.
Having Ray in the fold brings a whole new dimension to this rivalry, and as the two pivots meet again on Sunday, there’s little doubt they’ll be the emphasis of what’s being dubbed as the biggest game of the season so far.
Going into the weekend, Calvillo remains the league’s leader in passing yards, while Ray sits in third just 55 yards behind.
In their Week 5 meeting, they combined for 597 yards and three touchdown tosses, with a good chunk of those yards coming in the first half alone.
That game gave us a true indication of what we can expect on Sunday if Ray and Calvillo go off, despite the fact that the defences settled in after the first half and only 10 points were scored in the entire second half.
It’s hard to predict whether the second matchup this year between Montreal and Toronto will be high scoring or not, but what we can assume is that the two starting quarterbacks will make the biggest difference in the final outcome.
Ray appears to be hitting his stride in a new offence that’s been difficult to learn, while Calvillo continues to be the same old Calvillo we’ve always known in looking to lead the Als back to East Division supremacy after stepping aside for a season.
The quarterbacks will be the ones to watch on Sunday, and if one finds a way to outplay the other by any significant margin, that’s what will determine a winner.
This is two teams battling it out for top spot in the division, with two of the league’s great passers – what’s not to get excited about?
A great rivalry is back
We’ve gotten used to these teams clashing over the last decade, but more recently the Als returned to dominance against the Boatmen ever since Damon Allen retired at the end of 2006.
|One wild ending|
In one of the wildest plays you will ever see in the CFL, The Als and Argos play a game of kick ball in and out of the end-zone on the final play of the game. Eventually Montreal recovers for the touchdown and the win.
» Watch: Als, Argos play kick ball
Now, with Ray in the fold for the Double Blue and Calvillo still playing some of the best football of his career as a 40-year-old, we appear headed for another chapter of what’s become a classic CFL rivalry with a surprising number of key moments in the past.
Here’s a look at the top five games between these two teams since the turn of the millennium:
5. October 28, 2006
Montreal 24, Toronto 20
With first place in the East Division up for grabs in the final game of the season, 38,123 fans packed Rogers Centre to watch two greats in Damon Allen and Anthony Calvillo duel it out for another division title.
The Argos took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter on the strength of an Arland Bruce touchdown reception back in the second quarter, but with a chance to host the East Final for the second straight year, they couldn’t close the deal in the fourth.
Robert Edwards scored on the ground for the Alouettes late in the fourth quarter, and the Argos couldn’t fight back as Montreal booked its ticket to the East Final with a 24-20 win on the strength the late touchdown and a 65-yard touchdown catch for Dave Stala in the second quarter.
The Als would go on to beat the Argos 33-24 in the East Final, marking their fourth win in five straight tries against the Boatmen in the playoffs.
4. October 29, 2010
Montreal 37, Toronto 30
Running back Dahrran Diedrick jumped on a live ball in the Argos end zone with no time remaining, as the Alouettes completed an unlikely fourth quarter comeback to stun the Boatmen 37-30 on a Friday night at the Rogers Centre.
The trouble started at the end of the third quarter, when already leading 30-20 the Argos had a chance to put the game out of reach with the ball at the nine-yard-line.
Cleo Lemon was picked off though, and the Als responded with a pair of 90-plus-yard scoring drives to tie the game at 30 apiece.
With Montreal in range to win the game in the dying seconds, Damon Duval attempted a 36-yard field goal but missed wide. Mike Bradwell booted it out of the end zone for the Boatmen to avoid a single, but the ball went right back to Duval, who wisely kicked it back into the end zone.
Shaw tried to kick the bouncing ball right back out, but it didn’t reach the goal line, prompting a mad scramble that ended with Diedrick smothering the ball for the major and the win.
The loss proved costly for the Argos, who were in a deadlock with the Ticats for second place and the rights to a home playoff game in the East Division Semi, but wound up finishing third with the tiebreaker.
"It is what it is; we've created our own situation. Go to Ivor Wynne, go to Olympic Stadium,” said Barker after the game. “It's a three-game road trip to the Grey Cup."
3. November 20, 2005
Montreal 33, Toronto 17
The Alouettes got revenge in a big way over the Boatmen in the 2005 East Final, after storming into Rogers Centre and hushing a crowd of 44,211 to the tune of a 33-17 win.
It wasn’t a typical win though, as the Boatmen came into the game flying high and looking for a second straight appearance in the Grey Cup.
It was their first chance to host a division final since Doug Flutie quarterbacked the team in 1997, and after beating the Alouettes in fine fashion back in October, 49-23 in front of more than 50,000 fans at Olympic Stadium, it looked like clear sailing for the Boatmen.
The Argos jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, looking every bit like the team that demolished the Alouettes in their own building back in October. But that’s when receiver R Jay Soward, who scored the touchdown to give the Argos a two-touchdown lead, decided to get a little bit out of hand with the celebration.
It seemed meaningless, but his move to grab a bag of popcorn from the stands and enjoy it in the end zone with fellow receiver Robert Baker didn’t go over so well with the opponent, and it was right there that the game began to shift.
The Alouettes would outscore the Argos 33-3 from there, getting three touchdown runs from non-import running back Eric LaPointe and forcing six Argo turnovers to deny Soward and the Double Blue a second consecutive trip to the Grey Cup.
There’s no telling whether Soward’s infamous celebration had any bearing on the actual result of the game, but if you ask Argos fans, they’ll still hold it against him.
2. November 14, 2004
Toronto 26, Montreal 18
The third time turned out to be the charm for the Argos, who played hated division rival Montreal for the third time in as many years at Olympic Stadium for a chance to play in the Grey Cup.
Damon Allen was his usual self for the Double Blue, while the defence feasted on Anthony Calvillo all afternoon as the Argos overcame their greatest obstacle of the new millennium in topping the Alouettes 26-18 for a trip to Ottawa.