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Hogan: Eastern Final pits long-time rivals in rare playoff

Mike Hogan
11/16/2013 7:09:21 PM
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Quite surprisingly, this is the first time since 1986 that the Argonauts and Ticats have met in the Eastern Final. The Hamilton Spectator's Steve Milton also points out that, even more amazingly, this is the first time the Argos and Ticats have each had at least 10 wins in the same year.

Rookie Shane Horton starts at middle linebacker for all-star Robert McCune, who will miss the game with a shoulder injury. Horton was a safety at USC and has played both outside linebacker and rush end for Toronto this year. He took at least 90 per cent of the snaps at MLB during practices this week.

Another rookie will start at the boundary halfback position. Neiko Thorpe, a member of the 2010 NCAA champion Auburn Tigers, played well replacing Pat Watkins at cornerback when the two teams played last month in Guelph. He's a big DB at 6'2". He'll line up next to the 6'5" Watkins.

Both Romby Bryant and Jason Barnes are listed as backup receivers. Head coach Scott Milanovich said earlier in the week that he didn't plan to dress five import receivers. With Chad Owens, John Chiles and Dontrelle Inman listed as starters, one can assume that either Bryant or Barnes is out. Barnes did take more reps with the first team this week than Bryant did.

Kicker Swayze Waters had a very good week at practice. The yard lines were not drawn on the field during Friday's workout, but Waters hit what appeared to be a 60-yard field goal at the end of a special teams session and was mobbed by his teammates. While punting from sideline to sideline with Noel Prefontaine during practice, Waters kicked one from one sideline, across the field, over the head of some media members and over the players bench. It went roughly 75-80 yards in the air.

Jerious Norwood gets the start at running back for the injured Chad Kackert. Norwood is coming off a game against Montreal where he carried the ball eight times for 102 yards and caught four passes for 62 more. A kick return specialist in the NFL, Norwood said his fastest time in the 40-yard dash was 4.33 seconds.

Aaron Maybin gets the nod at DE. His only start of the season came in the season finale against Montreal. The most obvious thing about Maybin is how quickly he gets off the ball. The Argos have not had a great pass rush this season and Maybin's presence may help.

Ticket demand was such that an additional block of upper-deck seats was made available Saturday afternoon. The latest estimate is that around 40,000 will be in attendance.

Glen Johnson will be the referee for the game.

TSN.ca asked some of this year's East Division All-Stars which players they thought had a chance to be the star on Sunday.

Chad Owens: "Ricky Ray. He's been our most consistent player, he's probably been the most consistent player in the whole league and he's poised for these moments. I think he's going to continue to be Ricky Ray and help us win."

Khalif Mitchell: "Neiko Thorpe. He's been more sound in the stuff that he's been doing as far as film and knowing his assignments. He's the first one talking whenever a coach is asking about what's going on (in practice) or what's supposed to happen in a situation. He's the first one to be vocal about it and that shows his confidence and that he's been studying off the field."

Pat Watkins: "Mr. Ricky Ray. I mean, that's a sure bet. Born a star, been a star. Continuing to grow, a leader. He's the man to get this while team going. If he plays well, we'll rally behind him."

Chris Van Zeyl: "Khalif Mitchell. He's dominant. When you watch him on film, there's not an offensive line, when he puts his mind to it, that can stop him. I've watched him all year terrorize the guys on our team and whether he wins or loses, he leaves his mark every play. He's a fiery guy, he brings emotion to the game and the defence feeds off him".

Jeff Keeping: "Andre Durie. He's been great this year and has been one of our best players. He works hard all the time, does everything the coaches ask him to do, and that exemplifies what this team is all about."

Ricky Ray was asked three different times in three different ways and still wouldn't talk about one specific player. When teased afterward that he was incredibly boring, he laughed and said "I know".

Scott Milanovich acknowledged that he had a gut feeling that one of his stars would step up. When asked which one, he chuckled and said "I'll tell you after the game".

Mike Hogan is the play by play voice of the Argos on TSN 1050 radio in Toronto. The pre-game show for Sunday's game is Noon et, with a 1pm kickoff. You can listen online at TSN1050.ca.

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