September 29, 2007

Pile drives Argos defence

Quarterback hunter, author, on-field leader, Toronto linebacker is Clemons’ Mr. Perfect

By Scott Petersen,
Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON — Willie Pile is an author, public speaker, and the opportunist who just put a hurtin’ on the Edmonton Eskimos’ playoff chances.

Toronto Argonauts coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons said after Friday’s 18-11 win over Edmonton that the “P” in Pile is for perfect. And Mr. Perfect put a textbook hit on Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray in the second quarter that knocked the star pivot out of the lineup with a separated shoulder and paved an easier road to victory.

“We don’t want to see other guys get injured, that’s just unfortunate,” said Pile. “But at the same time, it is a defence and we do play defence and we’re paid to hit other players and take their best players out of the game, if we can, legally.

“And that was a legal hit and it was just a great play and a great setup. It wasn’t just me. It took the other guys on the line to do their job and make that play.”

The linebacker runs The Pile Group and has written a book aimed at youngsters titled The Winning Game Plan: An A-B-C Guide to Success. And he found success when he was set free at the line of scrimmage on a second-quarter play.

Pile charged untouched through the backfield to plow Ray into the turf and force him out of the game.

“Ricky Ray is certainly the most accurate passer, if not simply the best quarterback, in our league,” said Clemons.

“I’m complimenting the way they continued to fight and execute and do the things they do, but when you lose your No. 1 it’s a challenge. We were in a situation where we lost No. 1 and No. 2 there for several games and it is difficult, there is no two ways about it.”

The Argos have dealt with the losses of starting pivot Michael Bishop and back-up Damon Allen to injuries this season. Bishop is back with the club and went 13 for 28 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against the Eskimos. However, to receiver Andre Talbot, who caught the only two touchdowns of the game, this injury just helps level the playing field.

“It came at the right time for us. It’s kind of what we needed,” said Talbot.

“You never want to see anybody getting hurt, but our quarterbacks have been hurt this year and it’s just part of the game.”

With five games remaining on each of their schedules, the Eskimos (5-7-1) and Argos (6-7-0) could find themselves in a race for the same playoff spot in the East Division due to the crossover scenario. That put more emphasis on Friday’s game, and the rematch next Saturday in Toronto.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” said Talbot. “We have a couple of teams in the West whose quarterbacks are now out, in Calgary (Henry Burris) and Edmonton, and we struggled with that for the first third of the season. Now we’re healthy… it’s the perfect time.”

But Pile is wary of getting too excited. His knockout shot of Ray certainly hurt Edmonton, but he’s not expecting them to suddenly become an easy target.

“Those guys are professionals in that locker-room, and they’re going to rally now that one of their soldiers is down — their leader is down,” he said.

“I’m sure those guys are going to come with a great game plan and be ready to play next week when they come to our house.”

Robert Edwards quietly carried the ball 17 times for 122 yards, plus a fumble. Kicker Noel Prefontaine nailed a 48-yard field goal in the win.