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Argonauts Offence, Fan Support in Sorry State After Loss to Redblacks



Two games at BMO Field, two losses and mounting evidence on the state of fan interest for the Argos and the health of the team’s offence.

Attendance was woeful for Wednesday night’s battle of arms featuring Ricky Ray and Trevor Harris, a fight for first in the East, but yet another indictment on the appeal of three-down football in the Toronto market.

At least the Argos held a lead on this night. But it vanished in a 30-20 defeat to the Ottawa Redblacks, thanks to shoddy tackling, Ray’s arm not being strong enough to make deep throws, poor pass protection, being too limited offensively and yielding too many plays on defence and special teams.

The Argos now enter their first bye week with a 2-2 record, essentially two games in arrears of Ottawa, which has yet to lose this season.

The Boatmen weren’t anywhere close to being as bad as they were in their home opener last month, but they just weren’t good enough in all three phases.

The turning point was a 75-yard punt return by Tristan Jackson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, which broke a 20-20 tie and provided the winning margin for Ottawa.

Tackling was an issue all night for the Argos and it became magnified on Jackson’s punt return. He should have been brought down at Ottawa’s 40, but instead no one wrapped up, Jackson got to the outside and it was a foot race to the end zone.

“Sometimes when the ball bounces like that people relax for a little bit,’’ said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said of the play. “I don’t know if that was the case in this instance. Sometimes guys will get out of their lanes. We missed a tackle early on with a chance to stop him for no gain. Give him some credit. He made a good play.”

Mind you, it was still a one-score game, but as Milanovich would admit, his team did not respond well.

“In all three phases, we didn’t do a good job in the fourth quarter,’’ he said.

In beating the Riders and Lions on the road, the Argos were good down the stretch, posting what is commonly known in football as a three-phase win. In this case, it was a three-phase loss.

“It’s a sickening game, a little bit, from a coaching perspective,’’ added Milanovich. “We just didn’t look like we were on our details like we have been the last two weeks — penalties, jumping offside, just not doing the fundamental things you need to do to be a good football team.

“Even on that first drive when we scored a touchdown, we slopped around down there inside the 10 before we were able to stick it in because we were offside, didn’t have a guy on the ball. We were clearly not sharp.”

Offences were clicking in the second half, both Ray and Harris making good throws and getting fortunate on some bad ones.

Early in the fourth, Harris led the Redblacks on a drive, settling for a field goal as the teams were tied 20-20.

Just as the offences seemed to be taking over, Ray fell out of sorts on a quick two and out.

Following the Jackson return, Ottawa’s defence tightened and field position would be won, forcing the Argos to operate from a long field when they took over from their own 13 yard line.

Toronto clearly needed a break and it received one when Chris Milo’s attempted 49 yard field goal hit the upright.

Ray had Kenny Shaw deep in man coverage, but it was slightly underthrown. Ray then got sacked.

It wasn’t officially game over, but it felt like it, given how ineffective the Argos were playing in the game’s final 15 minutes.

The Argos jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the second quarter on one-yard TD plunges by Anthony Coombs and Cody Fajardo.

With momentum clearly on their side, the Argos had a chance to extend their lead, but poor tackling led to a long Greg Ellingson catch and run play that ultimately led to Ottawa’s first major, a rushing touchdown by Nic Grigsby, their first touchdown along the ground this season.

The half ended on an Ottawa field goal on the final play, the Argos leading 13-10.

No one expected the Argos to draw anything close to 20,000, but this was brutal, fewer fans in the stands than the crowd that came out to watch the pre-season game last month against Hamilton.

It was a beautiful night for football, an early season battle for first place in the East and yet no one, or not many, seemed to care that a game was being played.

The fans in attendance were engaged and when they had something to cheer, they cheered.

The CFL is a tough sell in Toronto, but this new Argos regime has to do something other than promote tailgating as a way to lure fans.

Other than the lapdogs at TSN, there is little coverage, no promotion of players, nothing, and the Argos should expect nothing when it comes to attracting fans.

It’s sad because BMO Field is a great facility and it was less than half empty.

As the teams changed ends to start the fourth quarter, with the Argos in front 20-17, the crowd was announced at 12,373 — one of the lowest in recent memory, underscoring the enormity of the work that needs to be done.

Ray passed Danny McManus for fourth place on the CFL’s career passing list and only a token acknowledgment on the end zone screen would be featured.


At first glance, it’s hard to tell how much of an impact the loss of Tori Gurley had on the Argos offence.

Gurley isn’t the fastest player, but he’s big and physical, a security blanket of sorts for Ricky Ray when a play is required.

Gurley was nursing a lower body injury all week.

Just before kickoff, he took part in the team’s on-field gathering at BMO and then Gurley’s status took a turn for the worse.

“He came to me just before we were leaving the dressing room and said he couldn’t go,’’ said head coach Scott Milanovich. “It was too late to put someone else on the roster at that point.”

In essence, the Argos played a man short and the team fell short in losing the visiting Redblacks, Ottawa overcoming a 13-0 early deficit and a three-point hole going into the final period.

When plays needed to be made in the decisive fourth, Ottawa emerged as the superior side on offence, defence and on special teams, a unit that ultimately proved the difference as the Redblacks remain unbeaten following four weeks of action.

Milanovich was aware of Gurley’s status and no roster move was made because the receiver thought he could play.

Kenny Shaw led the Argos with 94 yards.

With the Boatmen down 27-20 in the fourth quarter, Shaw got behind coverage on a man-to-man scheme with a linebacker, but Ray underthrew it by a hair, one of many plays the Argos left on the field in the final period.

“We weren’t being ourselves,’’ said Milanovich of the loss. “That was the message. Not to take anything away from Ottawa because they won the game they deserved it, but I felt we beat ourselves which is the last thing you want as a coach. At least if you lose, you want the other team to take it from you. I just think we didn’t play well, our coaches didn’t prepare well, obviously, and it’s disappointing given how well we played last week (in B.C.).”

Former Argos QB Trevor Harris didn’t throw for a touchdown, ending a streak where he threw three in three straight games, but he finished by completing 28 of 31 passes for 392 yards.

Greg Ellingson was a beast, getting behind coverage, taking advantage of some shoddy tackling, hauling in nine balls for 218 yards.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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