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Wharnsby: Calvillo out to best former coaches in East final

Toronto Argonauts may have the hotter quarterback in Ricky Ray, but it’s difficult to beat that playoff-hardened savvy of his Montreal Alouettes counterpart, 40-year-old Anthony Calvillo.

With all the knowledge and understanding Anthony Calvillo has acquired on the football field over the years, the 40-year-old Montreal Alouettes quarterback has pretty much seen it all.

But part of what keeps the veteran clicking with teammates, and a victory away from his ninth Grey Cup appearance, is Calvillo keeps his eyes and mind open. He continues to learn even at his advanced football age.

On the eve of the East final against the Toronto Argonauts at Olympic Stadium, Calvillo was asked if he has seen it all when it comes to defensive schemes. In other words, is there any new wrinkle respected Argos defensive coordinator Chris Jones could throw at Calvillo that would surprise him on Sunday?

“He’s always stretching the limits, coming up with new twists,” Calvillo said.

“Chris Jones has a creative mind with different packages. Whether they blitz, whether they play a lot of man-to-man, whether they play zone, I have to be ready for everything. I have to go out there and trust my read.

“He comes up with new coverages every time you play him. We know what we see on film, but he always adds new things to his repertoire and then we have to make our adjustments from there.

“He did some new stuff last week in the East semifinal [against Edmonton]. He’s always proven that he will change things up. You can’t get a clue on what they’re going to do and that’s what makes them such a great defence.”

Familiar enemies

Calvillo knows Jones well. The coach spent six seasons on the sidelines with the Alouettes. Jones, who is seeking his seventh Grey Cup trip in 11 years, knows the savvy quarterback well, too.

This is just one of the intriguing matchups in the latest East final between the rivals that has seen the Alouettes win four of the last five playoff meetings at Olympic Stadium.

Argos head coach Scott Milanovich worked five seasons in Montreal on the offensive side the ball and very closely with Calvillo. But Milanovich remarked that because the CFL is such a small league there are not many surprises. He doesn’t feel he has an advantage coaching against Calvillo.

Calvillo has bounced back nicely from a down season last year. He learned a hard lesson in 2011. With speculation running wild that Calvillo was in his final year of his football career, he got caught up with all the questions about his possible retirement and his lack of focus was reflected in his play.

This season, he altered his mindset.

“This year I told myself I was going enjoy the moment,” Calvillo said. “I’ve done that well and I will continue to do that.”

The thing is, as steady and efficient as Calvillo has been, Toronto’s 33-year-old Ricky Ray enters the East final as the hotter quarterback.

“Everbody is playing a lot better,” said Ray, who has won two Grey Cups. “We started to understand more what we were supposed to do. This [offence] was new for everybody.”

Although Cavillo knows that Ray has played well and that the Argos have won four in a row, he hasn’t paid much attention to his opponent’s late-season success.

“The one thing I’ve learned is I don’t watch much of the games,” Cavillo said. “I truly try to get away. Football is very demanding, physically and mentally. I need that mental break.

“When it is all said and done the mental break away from the game has benefited me and that’s the way I have approached it, whether it’s Ricky Ray or anybody else.”

Another lesson learned.

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CBC | Sports News