Former Toronto Argonaut-turned-Ticat Anthony Woodson has been heckled by Hamilton fans. It wasn’t nice.
“I can’t repeat any of it – because we were the Argos, I think they saved stuff just for us. You just try a ignore it, but sometimes you can’t help but hear what they’re saying, ” said Woodson. “I’m looking forward to being on the other side of it.”
A versatile Canadian running back, Woodson was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2010, then traded to Toronto in 2013 before signing with the Ticats as a free agent last February. On Monday night, he’ll line up against his old club as the Ticats play their first home game of the season against their arch rival.
“When you practise against guys, you can’t hit, so there’s a lot of grey area as to who would win certain battles. Now we’ll find out who’s the best, ” he said. “In the end, even though some of them are my good buddies, I want nothing more than to knock their heads in.”
If Woodson is getting used to life on the other side of the QEW, receiver Bakari Grant has become personally invested in one of CFL’s best rivalries. Familiarity, after all, breeds contempt.
“‘Hate’ is a strong word, but I don’t like anything about their colours, I don’t like anything about their team – I like hitting them, ” Grant said. “For someone like me who has been here for five years, I’ve come to hate the Argos.”
For those with experience on the other side, the feeling is mutual. Toronto general manager Jim Barker is now in his sixth season with the Argonauts and says tensions are heightened further this year because both teams are playing well early. The Double Blue lead the East at 3-1, while the Ticats are 2-2 after season-opening four-game road trip.
“I mean, they’re Hamilton and if they were garbage, it wouldn’t matter to me, ” Barker said this week. “But they’re good. So yeah, I hate them.”
Barker says the Argos are already seeing the benefits from a change in ownership that will see Bell Media and MLSE take over the team from David Braley at the end of the season. The team will then move into BMO Field in time for the 2016 campaign.
“Next year they know they are going to have a stadium that fans are going to love to be in, ” said Barker, who, along head coach Scott Milanovich, received a contract extension in June. “For our veteran players, to be able to know what’s coming next year is great.”
The game features a matchup between two up-and-coming quarterbacks in Toronto’s Trevor Harris and Hamilton’s Zach Collaros. The two came into the league together in 2012 with the Argos and remain close, part of a trio of former roommates that includes Toronto kicker Swayze Waters.
“Maybe I’ll pick their brain a little bit on who is playing well in practice, ” Collaros joked. “But Trevor won’t tell me anything and Swayze’s a kicker, so he doesn’t know anything.”
Barker says he isn’t surprised by Harris’ early success – he came into the week leading the CFL in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage – as he fills in for an injured Ricky Ray.
“He’s been here for four years and he and Zach came in at the same time and they were neck-and-neck when Ricky got hurt back in 2013, ” Barker said. “We knew he was a good player, he just hasn’t had the opportunity.”
The game should also feature the return of ex-Ticat and Hamilton product Dave Stala, who was a Cat for five years, before signing with the Als before the 2014 season. He joined Toronto in June.
Grant, who calls Stala one of his all-time favourite teammates, says it will be strange to see his friend’s familiar No. 88 emblazoned on a Double Blue jersey.
“I’m sure when he signed that contract, there was some hesitation in that signature, some shaking of the pen, ” Grant said, laughing. “I hope every day that he gets dressed, he feels wrong.”
Toronto Argonauts (3-1) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-2)
Tim Hortons Field
Monday, Aug. 3
Game time: 7 p.m.
TV: TSN Radio: TSN 1150
The storyline for Toronto: The Argos lead the East despite having played exclusively West Division teams so far and their first four on the road (they’ve logged more than 30,000 kms of travel so far in 2015). And they’ve done it without starting quarterback Ricky Ray, who is out with an injured shoulder. They just want to keep the roll going.
Key injuries: In addition to Ray, the Argos are also without Canadian slotback Andre Durie, who’s gone for the season, and kicker Swayze Waters, who is on the six-game injured list with a hip problem.
Five funky Toronto stats
1. The Argonauts are coming off 30-27 road win over the B.C. Lions in which their 21-point comeback to win matched the third largest in CFL history by an away team.
2. Toronto has 34 players in either the first or second year in the CFL, the most in the league. Rookie receivers Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliott are second and third on the team in receiving, and sophomore linebacker Greg Jones is sixth in the league in tackles.
3. The Double Blue have three of the East Division’s eight wins over the West so far this season (Hamilton has another two.) The East has not won the season series since 2004.
4. Toronto quarterback Trevor Harris leads the CFL in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage.
5. The Argos have the CFL’s best red-zone offence, having converted 10-of-13 opportunities inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns (76.9 per cent). Hamilton is second-worst at 44.4 per cent.
The storyline for Hamilton: The Ticats are coming off their own come-from-behind win over a Western team, courtesy of a 31-21 victory over Saskatchewan. This is Hamilton’s first home game of the 2015 season and they’ll be looking to keep the mojo going from last season: they were 7-0 at Tim Hortons Field in 2014. The game is expected to be a sellout.
Key injuries: With receiver Luke Tasker, defensive tackle Ted Laurent and defensive end Eric Norwood all expected to return from injury, the Ticats are as healthy as they’ve been all season. The only starter still out is halfback Johnny Sears, who is still a couple of weeks away with a hamstring injury.
Five funky Hamilton stats
1. The Ticats are one of eight CFL teams with at least two wins this season, the first time since 2003 that that many clubs have registered multiple wins after just five weeks.
2. Hamilton continues to lead the league in penalties, averaging 15.4 per game; but they’ve amassed them on 468 yards off those infractions, which is fourth in the CFL.
3. The Ticats are second in points scored with 119 through five weeks, but have registered just six touchdowns, the second-worst mark in the league.
4. C.J. Gable’s 20 carries and 135 yards rushing last week versus Saskatchewan were both career highs and it was the third-year running back’s first 100-yard ground game since Oct. 14, 2013, versus Toronto.
5. Justin Medlock’s 70.6 yard kickoff average is the second best mark in the league.
Referee: Tom Vallesi
The weather forecast: Partly cloudy, 24 degrees with a 20 per cent chance of rain and winds out of the west at 18 km/h.