Argos host RedBlacks in must-win affair

Toronto, ON ( – Hanging on by the skin of their teeth, the
Toronto Argonauts find themselves in dire straits as they try to work their
way into the Grey Cup Playoffs.

In this the final week of the regular season, the Argos are set to host the
expansion Ottawa RedBlacks in a must-win game.

Not only is this a huge game for Toronto at Rogers Centre on Friday night, the
team also needs to get some help from Montreal when the Alouettes meet up with
Hamilton on Saturday. As the team sitting in third place in the East Division
standings currently, Toronto is two points behind Hamilton for the final
playoff spot and would find itself sitting at home if the Tiger-Cats upend

Unfortunately, the Argos put themselves in this position by losing two of the
last three outings after putting together a three-game win streak. Last
Sunday, Toronto could have clogged up the postseason scenarios as it met with
Montreal on the road, but the Argos came up short in a 17-14 final.

But perhaps more devastating than the three-point setback was the loss of
quarterback Ricky Ray to a head injury. One of the league’s all-time greatest
signal callers managed to convert 26-of-35 passes for 209 yards, but was
sacked three times and suffered a concussion which has him now listed as
doubtful for this regular-season finale.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the only quarterbacks on the active roster for the
Argos other than Ray were Trevor Harris and Mitchell Gale. While the latter
was the one who tossed a one-yard TD to Mike Bradwell late in the first half
last time out, all indications have Harris as the potential starter at this
point. Harris completed only one of his four attempts against Montreal for
eight yards.

Hailing from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania where he was a two-time
finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which recognizes the most valuable player
at the Division II level, Harris has been on the Toronto roster for three
years and has completed 33-of-58 passes for 424 yards.

While Toronto still holds out hope that there will be life after Week 20, the
same cannot be said for the expansion RedBlacks who have been pummeled week
after week. Against visiting Hamilton on Halloween, Ottawa appeared to be
ready to break what had become a three-game losing streak, but even an 8-0
edge in the first quarter was lost to a Tiger-Cats squad that was in desperate
need of a win in order to maintain hope for the postseason.

Quarterback Henry Burris converted 15-of-26 passes for 222 yards and a score,
but he also tossed a couple of interceptions and was sacked four times before
being pulled out in favor of Danny O’Brien. Unfortunately for the RedBlacks,
O’Brien didn’t fare much better as he hit 6-of-10 attempts for 83 yards and
was also intercepted twice.

Making a more significant impact for the hosts was running back Jeremiah
Johnson who finished with a game-high 131 yards and two majors on 17 attempts.
So dominant in the running game was Johnson, he topped all of Hamilton as the
Tiger-Cats amassed just 107 yards on 15 attempts.

Turnovers have plagued the RedBlacks the entire season, and now with one game
to play they find themselves last in the league in turnover margin at
minus-15. One would think Ottawa would easily end up with the worst mark in
the league in that regard, but right behind the squad is Toronto at minus-13.
A gambling group that is almost always playing from behind, the RedBlacks have
turned the ball over 17 times on downs, by far the most of any club, while
Toronto’s downfall is having too many lost fumbles (25).

In terms of the all-time series between teams representing these two cities,
Toronto is ahead by a count of 132-105-5 in regular-season battles that have
taken place since 1907. However, of the two games won by Ottawa this season,
one of those came in Week 4 action versus Toronto in a narrow 18-17 final.

In that game, the RedBlacks produced a solid 313 yards of total offense, but
failed to make it into the end zone as Burris completed 17-of-30 passes for
216 yards and was sacked five times. Instead, the hero of the day for the
hosts was kicker Brett Maher who knocked through six field goals, the last of
which coming with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation.

Over on the other side, Ray had his struggles as he completed 21-of-27
attempts for 298 yards and a score, but was sacked three times and tossed a
pair of interceptions. The Argos certainly didn’t do themselves any favors as
they committed 12 penalties for a loss of 132 yards.