CFL Preview: Tiger-Cats at Argonauts
Winner of Friday night's battle clinches post-season berth in CFL's East Division
What's at stake
It's playoff time in Toronto. Well, not exactly. Friday's game at Rogers Centre is Game 15 of 18 for both teams, but the winner will clinch a playoff berth and gain a stranglehold on second spot in the Canadian Football League's East Division.
The teams have identical 7-7 records but the Tiger-Cats own the tiebreaker with a pair of victories to open the three-game series: 16-12 at Toronto on Aug. 20 and 28-13 in the Labour Day Classic at Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium on Sept. 6.
Both clubs are fresh off impressive wins to close out a home-and-home series. Hamilton earned its first victory in three starts, blanking the visiting Eskimos 16-0 in the fourth quarter en route to a 36-11 verdict one week after squandering a 14-point lead in a 37-35 defeat at Edmonton.
- 2010 record: 7-7
- Road record: 3-4
- Streak: 1 W
- 2010 record: 7-7
- Home record: 4-3
- Streak: 1 W
2010 head to head: Hamilton leads 2-0
Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto picked up its third win in seven road starts this season, fighting back against Saskatchewan after blowing an 11-0 advantage in the second quarter with an early touchdown in the fourth to avenge a 27-16 setback at home to the Riders on Oct. 2.
The Argos have wins against all teams but Hamilton this season and could run into a well-rested Ticats outfit that had practices shortened this week by head coach Marcel Bellefeuille, who is looking to give his players extra recovery time entering the final four weeks of the regular campaign.
Players to watch
Hamilton — Arland Bruce
The former Argos wide receiver snapped a streak of seven games without reaching the 100-yard mark, hauling in six passes for 142 yards in last week's win over Edmonton. The nine-year CFLer is tops in league receiving with 80 catches and 1,237 yards, 79 more than Saskatchewan's Andy Fantuz (1,158). Bruce is on pace for a career high in receptions (92 in 2008) and 133 yards shy of his career high in yardage (1,370 in 2006).
Toronto — Noel Prefontaine
The kicker known as Pre to his Argos teammates is back where he began his CFL career in 1998. Prefontaine was reacquired by Toronto on Tuesday for defensive tackle Etienne Legare and the rights to import defensive back Damaso Munoz after being traded to Edmonton on May 31, 2008. The six-time CFL all-star is sixth among regular punters this season with a 43.1-yard average but has made 21 of 25 field goals, including a career-best 57-yarder.
Game day quarterbacks
Hamilton — Kevin Glenn
The 31-year-old is enjoying his best season in three years. One of only two quarterbacks to have thrown for more than 4,000 yards — Saskatchewan's Darian Durant is the other — Glenn is also second in completion percentage at 66.7. In two games against Toronto, he's throwing at a 75 per cent clip (52 of 69) for 560 yards. Last week, he wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception for the first time in 10 games. Glenn needs three touchdown passes to set a personal best of 28.
Toronto — Cleo Lemon
The CFL rookie has struggled at times this season but looked like a veteran working the clock last week versus Saskatchewan. After hooking up with Jeremaine Copeland for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, he ran fearlessly through the middle of the Roughriders defence for a critical first down with less than two minutes to play. The Argos then ran out the clock for a 24-19 win.
Lemon, also 31, passed for 152 yards and a major, but he also had to shake off an interception and three sacks. Only once this season has he thrown for more than 300 yards. On Labour Day in Hamilton, Lemon threw two interceptions in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) and couldn't find his receivers on another trip.
Hamilton — The Ticats are still missing two starters in the defensive secondary. Halfback Jason Shivers has an elbow injury and cornerback Jykine Bradley is battling neck and shoulder issues. There is no timetable for their return. Reserve corner Will Heyward is also nursing a balky knee and is doubtful for Friday.
Toronto — Punter Jamie Boreham is on the nine-game injured list with a hamstring injury that accelerated this week's trade for Prefontaine. Defensive tackle and sack leader Kevin Huntley (shoulder) participated in full workouts Wednesday and is expected to play.
Hamilton has won both meetings this season, the latest a convincing 28-13 decision on Sept. 6 against the self-destructive Argonauts, who turned the ball over five times. It was the Tiger-Cats' third consecutive victory over Toronto and fourth in the last five encounters.
It also pushed Hamilton's all-time regular-season record against its arch-rivals to 119-86-2 dating back to 1950.
What they said
"There's a playoff game at stake here and that's always your first goal, to qualify for the post-season. After that, it's about getting into the best position you can." — Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille on the importance of Friday's game.
"We want to be a team that can dictate on offence what we do and [the Ticats] are going to try to take away our running game.… This is a great chess match game for a true football fan to watch the offence versus the defence." — Argos head coach Jim Barker on his team's game plan.