TORONTO – It was two years ago in 2010 that the Toronto Argonauts came within one victory of claiming a spot in the 98th Grey Cup in Edmonton. The upstart Argos’ were defeated 48-17 in the Eastern Division Final at the hands of the powerhouse, Montreal Alouettes. The Argonauts’ were simply no match for the Als’ on that November afternoon as Montreal dominated every facet of the game. However, just two years following Montreal’s triumphant Eastern Final victory, it is the Argonauts’ who are beginning to solidify themselves as one of the most dominant teams in the Canadian Football League.
En route to their first Grey Cup appearance since the 2004 CFL season, the Argonauts’ overcame the Montreal Alouettes in the 2012 Eastern Division Final at Olympic Stadium. In a thrilling 27-20 victory over the Als, the Argonauts’ demonstrated how their 2012 squad is a more experienced and confident group than the team that fell short in 2010.
“Confidence is the main difference. We were confident back in 2010 but this year it is more instilled in us”, said Argonauts’ linebacker Jason Pottinger, a member of the 2010 team.
The boost in confidence also comes courtesy of future hall of fame quarterback, Ricky Ray who was traded to Toronto this past offseason and has provided tremendous leadership to a re-constructed Argos’ offence.
“I feel Ricky instills confidence in our offence and provides great stability. He is incredible on and off the field. He always has the same demeanor and he does not shy away from pressure. When defences come after him, he stands in the pocket and delivers”, commented Pottinger following a recent Argonauts’ practice.
Ricky Ray concluded the 2012 regular season with 4,059 yards passing, ranking fifth amongst starting quarterbacks in the CFL. In back-to-back playoff starts, Ray has thrown for a total of 638 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
Offensive Tackle, Chris Van Zeyl, also a member of the 2010 team, says that Ray’s calm attitude has made plenty of difference during this 2012 season. “Ricky Ray has been the difference. It’s been a calming experience with Ricky under centre and you want to protect him in order to make his job easier. We can always improve but I think that we (offensive line) have done a good job this year”.
While Ricky Ray deserves plenty of credit for Toronto’s impressive Grey Cup run, Jason Pottinger suggests that the Argonauts’ have experienced immense success as result of a complete team effort throughout the 2012 season.
“The pieces of the puzzle have aligned. We wanted to win just as bad in 2010 but it was meant to be this year”, commented Pottinger during a post practice interview.
The Argonauts’ enter Sunday’s Grey Cup game against the Calgary Stampeders with home-field advantage, as the Rogers Centre will host the incredible CFL spectacle.
Chris Van Zeyl also believes that the Argonauts’ are a more focused group this time around and assures that the Boatmen will not be overwhelmed by playing in front of their hometown fans on Sunday evening.
“We enjoy playing at home but our main focus remains on the game itself”, stated Van Zeyl.
The Argonauts’ will look to capture the franchise’s first Grey Cup Championship since the 2004 CFL season – when Damon Allen was still a member of the Double Blue. The Argonauts have equipped themselves with a roster full of unselfish individuals who are willing to accept their role in order to do what is best for the team.
The disappointing conclusion in 2010 may prove to be a significant learning experience in the Argonauts’ journey to the 100th Grey Cup. Pending a victory on Sunday evening, the Argonauts’ may coincidentally look back at the 2010 season as a contributing factor to their success in 2012.
– Daniele Franceschi –