Givin’ it the gas

Ar­gos merg­ing into fast lane

Ottawa Sun - - SPORT - — Frank Zi­carelli FRANK ZI­CARELLI

Ev­ery game is treated the same, ev­ery op­po­nent de­serves re­spect, ev­ery block­ing as­sign­ment can lead to a big play.

For Chris Van Zeyl, each time he gets to step on the field is a time worth sa­vor­ing.

The Ar­gos of­fen­sive line­man has been nurs­ing a lower leg in­jury of late, but the classy vet­eran will be back this week pro­tect­ing Ricky Ray’s front side.

As dom­i­nant as the West has been when play­ing its Eastern brethren, there have been mo­ments of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, times when the in­fe­rior East has stepped up to knock off a more for­mi­da­ble foe.

No one gave the Ti­cats a chance to up­set the host Blue Bombers last week, a team that had won five in a row at home. And yet Hamil­ton played one of its most com­plete games of the sea­son in a one-sided win.

Ottawa was an un­der­dog against the Li­ons the fol­low­ing night, es­pe­cially with B.C. com­ing off a bye week, but fought back from a 19-point deficit.

Marc Trest­man pointed to those two games as ex­am­ples of what is pos­si­ble when teams go out West and can sum­mon their best in the game’s cru­cial mo­ments.

“Ottawa goes into B.C. and finds a way to win,’’ said the head coach. “Hamil­ton goes into Win­nipeg and finds a way to win.

“That’s the essence of what’s go­ing on here. We played the West (Ed­mon­ton) a cou­ple of weeks ago and found a way to win.

“And that’s what we’re try­ing to do. We did it in Mon­treal and we’ll try to do it here and that’s to keep go­ing.”

With three games re­main­ing in the reg­u­lar sea­son, Van Zeyl knows this is money time, when teams be­gin to peak as they make their push for the post-sea­son.

“You’ve been cruis­ing along in your car,’’ be­gan Van Zeyl in paint­ing a pic­ture of this sea­son and the point in time the Ar­gos have reached. “You’ve had your foot on the gas, but you re­al­ize that there’s some­one try­ing to come into your lane to take what’s yours. You have to ei­ther speed up or slam on the brakes.

“And I think this team is go­ing to put their foot on the gas.”

The Ar­gos and Red­blacks

The Ar­gos travel to Ed­mon­ton this Satur­day.

The Eski­mos came to BMO Field on Sept. 16 and were beaten by the Ar­gos, the first time Toronto won a game when play­ing a Western op­po­nent.

Ed­mon­ton is com­ing off a win over Mon­treal on Thanks­giv­ing Mon­day when run­ning back C.J. Gable made his de­but in Green and Gold.

Gable had two TDs for Hamil­ton when the Ar­gos won their first game at Tim Hor­tons Field two weeks ago. He then had two TDs for Ed­mon­ton in its come­back win over the free-fall­ing Als.

For the sec­ond straight week, the top three teams in the East will be matched up against the West, be­gin­ning with Fri­day night’s visit to the Ham­mer by Cal­gary.

Later in the evening, the Red­blacks play the host Rid­ers.

Part of the West’s su­pe­ri­or­ity over the East is based on quar­ter­back play. Whether it’s per­for­mance-based or in­jury-re­lated, the East has strug­gled. But Ti­cats’ Jeremiah Ma­soli and Trevor Har­ris of the Red­blacks both re­ceived nods as CFL top per­form­ers of the week. have been neck-and-neck atop the East all sea­son, the teams sep­a­rated by one point head­ing into this week­end’s play.

Toronto has the tiebreaker and has one game in hand on Ottawa, which plays in Regina on Fri­day and closes out its reg­u­lar sea­son with a home game ver­sus Hamil­ton on Oct. 27.

Fol­low­ing Satur­day night’s game in Ed­mon­ton, the Ar­gos re­turn home to play host to Win­nipeg, get a bye and then wrap up the reg­u­lar sea­son with an away game against the B.C. Li­ons.

The Ar­gos haven’t won a play­off game since cap­tur­ing the Grey Cup in 2012, the first year Van Zeyl ex­pe­ri­enced the pres­ence of Ray.

That team fin­ished the sea­son at just 9-9.

“Dif­fer­ent teams,’’ said Van Zeyl. “We had a good team then, but we didn’t know we were good. This team, I think, no mat­ter what ad­ver­sity has come our way, we’ve taken it like ev­ery other game, whether we Run­ning back Bran­don Whi­taker draws back in as the Ar­gos’ starter for Satur­day’s game in Ed­mon­ton. win or lose. Our ap­proach has been: ‘How do we get bet­ter from this?’

“Yes, we’ve lost eight games this year, yes, we’ve won seven, but we still have three ahead of us.

“Those are the games that mat­ters. What’s im­por­tant is the next game, the next se­ries. What we’re do­ing right now is win­ning the play, win­ning on what’s right now and not fo­cus­ing in what’s com­ing down the road.

“We’re not look­ing at 7-8. We’re look­ing at how we get bet­ter. That’s the big thing for us.”

STAN BEHAL/TORONTO SUN

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