Argo hope­fuls give best, and maybe last, shots


The CFL dreams are about to die for dozens of Arg­onaut hope­fuls after Fri­day night’s fi­nal pre-sea­son game in Hamil­ton.

With a bloated train­ing camp ros­ter of more than 80 play­ers, the Arg­onauts will be faced with some hard choices in get­ting down to a 46-man ros­ter by the sea­son opener in Toronto on June 25, also against the Tiger-Cats.

“I think it’s a make-or-break time for any­body who is play­ing,” head coach Marc Trest­man said at the team’s camp at York Univer­sity. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity for them to as­sess them­selves in a game en­vi­ron­ment. Can they play smart? Can they take care of the foot­ball? Do they tackle well? Do they han­dle suc­cess or ad­ver­sity well within the course of the game, and how do they re­spond to the next play?”

Most of the at­ten­tion will be at the key quar­ter­back spot. Six QBs re­main in camp and the Ar­gos will likely cut one or two.

Veteran Ricky Ray, of course, is a lock, and won’t see any ac­tion against the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hor­tons Field (7:30 p.m.).

Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews and Cody Fa­jardo saw limited time last week in Toronto’s 24-20 pre-sea­son vic­tory over the Mon­treal Alou­ettes at BMO Field. Two untested rook­ies, Dakota Prukop and McLeod Bethel-Thomp­son, will de­but Fri­day.

“McLeod is more of a pocket passer and able to ex­tend plays with his feet,” Trest­man said of their con­trast­ing styles. “Dakota’s mo­bil­ity is one of his true strengths. He has the abil­ity to make plays on the run.”

They both may ap­proach the game dif­fer­ently too.

Bethel-Thomp­son talked Thurs­day about want­ing to “light it up” when his chance ar­rives, while Prukop talked about the im­por­tance of “ball se­cu­rity” and not want­ing to turn the ball over.

“When it comes to de­ci­sion-mak­ing, I want to err on the side of cau­tion,” Prukop said. “Turnovers are detri­men­tal to an of­fence.”

Prukop, 23 and a prod­uct of the Univer­sity of Ore­gon, is the youngest of the quar­ter­backs in camp.

Born in New­port, Calif, he is six­foot-two and 205 pounds and has strong foot­ball blood­lines. His grand­fa­ther, Al Prukop, was a quar­ter­back for the USC Tro­jans, his fa­ther coached foot­ball at USC, and an un­cle played foot­ball at Cal State Fuller­ton.

Bethel-Thomp­son, 28, is built like a shot putter at six-foot-four, and 230. It’s per­haps no sur­prise that his grand­fa­ther, Wil­bur (Moose) Thomp­son, was the 1948 Olympic shot put cham­pion.

Bethel-Thomp­son played at Sacra­mento State but, like a lot of suc­cess­ful col­lege quar­ter­backs, he couldn’t catch on with the NFL.

“I’ve been with six teams in the NFL,” Bethel-Thomp­son said. “I’ve bounced around. I was close, re­ally close. Some­times, it’s just right time, right place in that league.”

His ca­reer high­light up to this point was a solid pre-sea­son per­for­mance for the Min­nesota Vik­ings in 2014 against Hous­ton. How­ever, he couldn’t stick and ar­rived in the CFL last year in Winnipeg. The Bombers re­leased him last Oc­to­ber.

One player who won’t make his de­but with Toronto is for­mer Mon­treal re­ceiver S.J. Green, who needs more time to re­cover from a se­ri­ous knee in­jury.

Mean­while, Cana­dian kicker Ron­nie Pf­ef­fer, who was signed this week, will get a chance to play in the sec­ond half of Fri­day’s game. He has a tough as­sign­ment try­ing to un­seat the in­cum­bent, Lirim Ha­jrul­lahu, and the team won’t carry two kick­ers dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

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