November 16, 2017

Hogan: For Argos it’s just another game

Chris Van Zeyl (54) of the Toronto Argonauts before the game against the Montreal Alouettes at BMO Field in Toronto ON, Saturday, September 23, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

During the regular season, CFL personnel will talk about a regular season game as being just one of 18. This Sunday at BMO Field the Argos will begin their second season with a playoff game against Saskatchewan.

They can’t be looking at this as just another game – or can they?

“We’re practicing (Wednesday) just like we practiced in Week Three and Seven and Fifteen and now whatever week it is, a hundred and sixty-some days into the season,” chuckled head coach Marc Trestman. “We’ve got a way of doing things and we haven’t changed, win or lose we practice and work the same way.”

That said, the coach was quick to add the players are well aware of what’s on the line.

“Our guys know the importance of this game,” conceded the coach. “They know where we stand. We know the team that we’re playing and we’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for them and we’re going about our business the way we always have.”

Playoff games are nothing new to offensive tackle Chris Van Zeyl. Now in his tenth season with the Argos he’s seen it all before. He admits there is something a little different in a playoff week.

“It’s just another level of focus,” said the Fonthill native. “I think all year the coaches have stayed with us and stayed on us to make sure we have a certain level of execution and focus. They don’t have to remind you any more with this one coming up. Everybody knows the stakes. I think the level of focus increases and anytime you’re in the playoffs that happens.”

Van Zeyl says the focus isn’t just on one aspect of the game, but perhaps seven.

“Heptangular focus,” said a smiling right tackle. “You spend a little bit more time in the gym, you spend a little bit more time in the film room. Your diet, there are so many different ways you’re dialing in all of the different ways you’ve found that work throughout the season.”


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Like Van Zeyl, fullback Declan Cross is a McMaster product who knows what winning a championship is like. While the veteran has a Grey Cup ring, Cross’ championship was a Vanier Cup. Sunday will be his first playoff game as a pro.

“The difference is this is my only thing to focus on,” Cross told “At Mac when we were at the Vanier we kind of put school aside for a week and the Vanier was the only thing to focus on, but here it really is the only thing. There is nothing but this game. It’s nice to just have that singular focus.”

“It’s not so much what I learned in the playoff process at Mac,” continued the Oakville native. “It’s more something I just learned in the preparation throughout the year. We were a winning program in university and so I learned how to prepare properly.”

Playing in winning programs with the Marauders and the Burlington Stampeders has helped prepared the fullback for the biggest football stage in the country, the CFL playoffs.

“Being in the playoffs and being in championship games, it’s important to get that exposure,” said Cross. “It’s kind of like making a clutch shot in basketball. You have to be able to perform when the stakes are high.”

Defensive back Mitchell White had that opportunity last year. In fact, he’ll have the upper hand on almost all of his teammates. White, J’Micheal Deane and Cleyon Laing are the only current Argos who have played a playoff game at BMO Field, as all three were members of Ottawa’s Grey Cup winners of a year ago.

His biggest takeaway from the experience was not the game itself, but something that helped get Ottawa to the championship game in the first place.

“What I learned,” reflected White, “You’ve got to play your best ball at the end of the season. We were a really up-and-down team last year, but two games before the playoffs we just started hitting a stride and guys started playing very fast together, very similar to what we’re doing now.”

Is that the biggest similarity he sees between last year’s champs and this year’s Argonauts?

“That, and you have a very seasoned quarterback,” White continued. “I always try to compare the two, Hank (Burris) and Ricky (Ray) and what I say is that you can count on them. Guys who have played that long, they’re very consistent and you know what you’re going to get out of them. As a younger guy, I’ve got to step my game up and be consistent.”

The focus is there, the desire is there, and we now know a big crowd will be there. It will all come down to game-planning and execution on Sunday.