It may be just pre-season but the Toronto Argonauts are treating Saturday’s matchup with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a way to wipe the slate clean. Years of watching rivals move into and build home field advantages in intimate, state-of-the-art stadiums and now it is their turn to do the same, eventhough it may not be with all the trimmings.
The Argonauts will get their first opportunity to play at BMO Field, their newly renovated home turf after a 26-year residency at Rogers Centre. For some of the rookies, the impact of having a new home for the Double Blue may not carry much weight but for veterans such as defensive end Ricky Foley, Saturday will be more than just an exhibition tilt.
“This team has been through a great deal over the past few seasons but that’s all over now and I can’t wait,” Foley told The Canadian Press Firday. “BMO Field is going to be electric. It’s a new beginning for this franchise, my teammates and our fans, as well as an opportunity to win another Grey Cup at home.”
The visiting Tiger-Cats have been through a stadium rebirth of their own, opening Tim Hortons Field on the grounds of the old Ivor Wynne Stadium two years ago and have seen nothing but success with a dominant home record and two playoff wins.
The focus on the Tiger-Cats will be under centre as they try to not only sort out their hierarchy behind starter Zach Collaros but also find a replacement for the injured QB as he continues to rehab his injured knee. Collaros will be unavailable for the Tiger-Cats for the start of the regular season.
Jeremiah Masoli will get the call for the Tiger-Cats looking to build on what was an unexpected finish to 2015. One where he was thrust into the starting role in the playoffs, winning the Eastern Semi against Toronto and coming within a score of leading the ‘Cats to the Grey Cup.
Head Coach Kent Austin also said that it is likely Jeff Mathews and Jacory Harris will see time as well.
“It has been a long off-season and I am ready to get back out there with live bullets,” Masoli said on the eve of the tilt. “I’m not looking to prove too much. I just want to be myself and know what I can do. We have a a great group or receivers and running backs and a deep group of o-linemen.”
For Austin, it is all about seeing what his pivots can do once a healthy competition is lining up on the other side of the ball.
“Jeremiah, Jacory and Jeff have experience playing in a live game – not a ton of experience but experience,” he said. “You cant really get better in partucluar at tat position without playing in real games, You just cant simulate it (in practice).”
As for the Argonauts, there is no doubt who their starter will be when these two teams kickoff on June 23rd. Ricky Ray will likely see a few reps but it will be Logan Kilgore taking the snaps to start the ballgame. Kilgore may be the front runner to take over for the now-departed Trevor Harris and Ray says he likes what he sees in the young signal-caller.
“He’s very talented and he has a great arm and he gets the ball out quick”, Ray said of Kilgore. “It is all about reps. The more reps, the more comfortable (you are)”.
As for Ray, all eyes are on his now repaired shoulder which he claims is feeling as good as ever.
“My arm has felt great. I have had no problems with my arm … It’s as good as any time in my career.”
Kickoff is at 4:00pm Saturday at BMO and is the first of three pre-season games on the CFL schedule.