Argonauts can’t afford to look past the last-place Redblacks

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The talk all week has been on the task at hand and how to best handle the Ottawa Redblacks.


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There’s been little talk, or so they claim, of what awaits the Argos as they take aim on first place in the East and the much-coveted bye into the divisional final.

The Argos can talk all they want about Saturday’s date in Ottawa, but human nature tells a different story.

It’s easy to look past the 2-10 Redblacks, whose two wins this season have come came against the equally struggling Edmonton Elks.

Granted, during the Redblacks’ first meeting with the Boatmen, last month at BMO Field, they did take a lead into halftime before being overtaken in the second half.

Toronto got to face quarterback Caleb Evans that game, his second CFL start after leading Ottawa past the Elks the week before.

On Saturday, the Argos will face quarterback Devlin (Duck) Hodges, who will make his starting debut in three-down football.


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The Redblacks will be playing out the string in their home finale, a franchise that enters the off-season in desperate need of a general manager and talent at the skill positions.

Jobs will be on the line as players audition, but the challenge facing the Argos is more mental than physical.

What the Argos can’t do is overlook the Redblacks, knowing the 6-5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be in town next week, placing them back under the microscope.

“It’s been talked about all week,’’ acknowledged head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, who has led the Argos to a 7-4 record in his rookie season. “We can’t take these guys (Redblacks) for granted. They’re going to be fighting for jobs, fighting for jobs maybe outside of Ottawa.

“These guys have a lot to play for and we know that. At the end of the year, when you’re out of the playoffs, teams tend to play care-free because they’re not worried about making mistakes.


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“Normally, they play a little bit better once they’re eliminated. They know what’s at stake and our guys must realize they can’t go in there and just show up.

“We’ve had our moments when we simply showed up and got our butts whupped. Those guys (Argos) have an understanding of how important this game is.”

A loss would be devastating to an Argos team that’s been on the edge for what seems like the entire season.

When they lose, they’ve been blown out. When they win, the margin has been razor thin.

The only lopsided win came was that 35-16 romp on Oct. 6 over the visiting Redblacks, who yielded two defensive scores and a special teams major when the Argos blocked a punt.

A win Saturday sets up next week’s meeting with the Ticats, whose two losses to the Argos have been by a combined two points.


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In many ways, Saturday’s meeting in Ottawa is the very definition of a trap game, one the Argos cannot fall into or the consequences could prove fatal in terms of their playoff seeding.

“That’s a good question,’’ said wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr., when asked how his team can avoid the temptation of looking past Ottawa knowing Hamilton looms. “Coach has done a great job of emphasizing the need to be in the moment and enjoying the moment.

“And right now, the moment is preparing for Ottawa. We need to prepare well to play on the road. Ottawa has a great fan base. Ottawa is a good team and those guys compete every single game. For me, I’m not looking past anyone.”

Gittens spent his days as a youth in Ottawa.

The Argos wrap up their road schedule Saturday having won two games away from Toronto — the season opener in Calgary and the Thanksgiving walk-off in the Hammer when Boris Bede drilled a 51-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.


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Toronto ends its regular season at home against the Ticats and Elks.

Against Ottawa, the Argos have won four in a row and are 7-1 in their past eight matchups.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson is 5-0 as Toronto’s starting quarterback in games against the Redblacks.All signs point to an Argos win, but for that happen they can’t look ahead to Hamilton.


Rookie OL Peter Nicastro (knee) and veteran LB Dexter McCoil Jr. (elbow) have each been added to the team’s six-game injured list.

As expected, the Argos will welcome back the return of linebacker Cameron Judge, who’s been out with an ankle injury since Sept. 17.

Interestingly, Judge is listed as a backup on the depth chart behind starter Justin Tuggle.
The Argos will start veteran Philip Blake at centre with rookies Dylan Giffen and Theren Churchill as offensive line backups.


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O-lineman Jonathan Zamora, whom the Argos plucked from Calgary’s practice roster earlier in the week, is on the one-game injured list.

In total, 21 players are on Toronto’s injured list, including 13 on the six-game.


Juwan Brescacin is listed as a backup at receiver following a lengthy injury absence. The veteran hurt his knee in Toronto’s Week 2 loss at Winnipeg.

He’ll back up fellow Mississauga native Dejon Brissett, who scored his first and only touchdown of this, his rookie season, off that blocked punt against Ottawa.

A.J. Ouellette returns to the backfield and will replace D.J. Foster, who moves to the one-game injured list.

Other items of note feature the return of rush end Shane Ray, who can’t seem to elude the injury bug. A former NFL first-rounder, Ray was hurt in his debut in Toronto’s season opener.

When he returned, Ray got hurt in his home debut with his mom in attendance.




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