Football is back! More specifically Argo football is back. While it was a loss to the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers the home side put on a gutsy come from behind attempt late in the 4th quarter. Keep in mind this is a game that does not count in the standings and one of the objectives for coaches and fans alike is to evaluate the many rookies and players new to the professional ranks and new to the CFL game.
The 5,000 fans in attendance at historic Varsity Stadium had alot to contemplate after last night. Many fans were in mid season form, in full voice cheering on their beloved Argos. This will be a season of slow building anticipation of the move to BMO Field next year to a more intimate and fan friendly (player friendly too) environment. Varsity gave us a small taste of what that experience will be like for 2016.
Make no mistake. Scott Milanovich wants to – make that – expects to win every game. Until last night his Argo teams had never lost a preseason game. And they almost won again last night. The best takeaway from last night was the team never gave up, never stopped believing that they could win. QB Mitchell Gale played the entire second half and led the comeback and put up impressive passing yardage of 242 yds and running in two TDs and passing for another. His primary receiver was Tori Gurley who had 7 catches for 188 yds that included a 72 yd touchdown. What made their connection all the more impressive was the fact that Gurley has only been in camp for one week. QB Trevor Harris started the game and played the first quarter putting up solid results going 5 of 8 for 61 yds. He engineered one touchdown drive and did not turn the ball over. The 4th year Argo has earned the opportunity to lead his team while future hall of fame quarterback Ricky Ray continues to progress from off season surgery. Other solid performances from the offence included RBs Curtis Steele and Henry Josey. Good receiving performances by Kevin Elliott and Kevin Bradfield (Kevins “squared”) were also put in. Bradfield’s is a feel good story, a Toronto native and U of T alumni drafted by his hometown Argos and playing his first pro game on his school’s field. He had a spectacular catch on a 2nd and 20 play that led to a touchdown to keep the comeback going in the 4th quarter. The O-Line provided protection which is difficult under the preseason circumstances of rotating in lots of bodies and chemistry being vital amongst linemates in order to be successful.
Defensively, we saw an aggressive secondary going after balls adhering well to the new contact rules on receivers and they defended well against the run with most of Winnipeg’s rushing totals coming off of 3 plays. Similarly half of Winnipeg’s passing yardage came off of 4 plays. If football is the ultimate team sport than defence is the glue that holds it together. You have to know what the guy beside you is going to do and be confident so that you can do your job. With so many bodies coming in and out it is difficult to display that chemistry in a preseason outing. Blown assignments account for big plays, and they were kept to a minimum, and more importantly should improve with more time playing together. By my count at least 21 different defenders had at least one tackle. Not bad.
All in all a good effort for a first outing with an 84 man roster. Lots of positive to build off of. I will repeat one of Scott Milanovich’s favourite lines: “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” The first game was a loss. None of that matters if you win the last game on November 29th oddly enough in Winnipeg this year.
Our Argonauts head to Montreal for the final pre-season battle against the Alouettes June 18th, kickoff is 7:30 PM.
Scott Ford – Argo Admiral