top of page
  • Reeve Batstone

Chasing Ghosts

Harry Batstone - Courtesy Canadian Football Hall of Fame

"Each won fame in their own generation and were the pride of their time"--Ecclesiastes

The Argonauts' opening-season winning streak ended at six, which equalled their 1935 brethren. Gone is the chance to chase the incomparable 1921 Argonauts which had a perfect 9-0 season capped with a 23-0 shutout of the Edmonton Eskimos in the very first East vs West Grey Cup matchup. To say the 1921 team was special would be an understatement. Two of their players were the first true superstars of Canadian football, if not Canadian sport. They featured the country's finest player in diminutive halfback Harry Batstone. Joining the Argos in 1919 he became team captain in 1920. Batstone was a sensational 155 lb runner and an extraordinary kicker. He starred in every Grey Cup he played in. His running mate in 1921 was the iconic Lionel "Big Train" Conacher. Together they were thunder and lightning and made the finest running duo in Canadian football. They were Canada's version of Red Grange and Jim Thorpe if they had played in the same backfield.

In hockey, Conacher won the Memorial Cup, International League Little World Series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Stanley Cups in both Montreal and Chicago. He is one of only three players to have their names inscribed on both the Grey Cup and Stanley Cups. Additionally, he won boxing, wrestling and lacrosse championships before being named Canada's best athlete of the half century. Later he became an elected MP and cabinet Minister. Poetically, he died of a heart attack after hitting a triple in a softball game on Parliament Hill at the age of 54.

Meanwhile, Batstone left the Argos after their perfect season to enroll in Medicine at Queen's University. His arrival coincided with the beginning of the most dominant run in nascent football history. His first season in a Golden Gaels uniform began a string of 26 consecutive victories and three Grey Cups. In 1922 he starred as Queen's began to roll and set scoring records while hammering the Saskatchewan Roughriders 54-0 in their first Grey Cup. It was Batstone’s second consecutive Grey Cup winning shutout, surely never to be equaled. In eleven years he was a member of six National Intercollegiate championship teams, five Grey Cups and coached three consecutive Intercollegiate championship teams. It was often said that both Conacher and Batstone had "the Championship touch." No wonder Queen's made a habit of hiring football coaches from the roster of the Argos.

Not so lucky seven

As for the 2023 Argonauts loss to the Stampeders there isn't much to say except that while the Argo defence played well enough to win, their offence disappeared with the departure of Chad Kelly. In a preseason column I wrote, I outlined the risk the Argos were running into this season without a backup quarterback experienced in the Canadian game. This was immediately evident when Cameron Dukes entered the game. It's not realistic to expect him to play at a high level coming out of NAIA with no three down experience. The NAIA is comparable to the level of competition in USports but with US rules. Someone like Tre Ford, for example, might be expected to be a lot better prepared to start a CFL game in these circumstances than Cameron Dukes. Understandably, he struggled, and could have easily have had five interceptions with one of them a pick-six, but Calgary defenders mercifully could not squeeze them. To be fair it can be very hard to tell whether a QB has the right stuff after just three quarters in relief. The silver lining is that the Argos get to see what they have in their backups. I was somewhat surprised to see Dukes ahead of Bryan Scott as Scott has had professional experience and some success in the USFL and Spring League. It will be interesting to see who is under centre this week.

At the time of his injury Kelly had completed 67% of his passes for a 138 passer rating. Dukes, not unexpectedly, finished the game completing 53% for a 36 passer rating. It didn't help that the Argos gave up three sacks to Calgary's two and the Argo o-line committed three penalties.

While the Argos' defence only gave up one offensive TD I was stunned at the tackle stats. Thirty two tackles were made by just three players, all of them defensive backs. Robertson Daniel had 16 tackles, Royce Metchie nine, and Josh Hagerty seven!!

Nevertheless, if the CFL stats are to be believed, the Argos and Stamps both averaged 4.7 yards per rush. Inopportune turnovers sank the Argos undefeated string in ignominious fashion.

Around the League

For the second week in a row, well-played football took a bit of hiatus across the league. Again, Ottawa let a game slip through their fingers when they inexplicably decided to kick a FG from the one yard line with plenty of time on the clock resulting in only a fragile one point lead. It was a decision that went against all the probabilities. Ottawa has made a habit of hanging around until the last drive this season. Their undoing was the play-calling and the six sacks they allowed while sacking Mason Fine on zero occasions. Ottawa needs to move the pocket around, Crum is not very successful in the pocket and is hanging onto the ball too long. He has not developed the imaginary clock in his head yet. This is where good play calling can make a huge difference. He didn't get it.

After a rough start, Cody Fajardo stopped turning the ball over and the Alouettes ground out another win. Uncharacteristically, Fajardo threw two INTs and fumbled once in the first three quarters. The Alouettes continue to win with the help of angles in the outfield. This time, the Ti-Cats were the victims in another game which had reverted to the mean on the entertainment scale. The Ti-Cats have lost their killer instinct although Simoni Lawrence had his best game of this season. Count the Alouettes out at your peril.

The Bombers showed they still have teeth. The Lions are licking their wounds. The rubber match in October should be essential viewing.

bottom of page