On Thursday Ricky Ray and the Toronto Argos completed the first in what was a set of 3 pre-season goals in clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  The defending Grey Cup champs have only 2 goals left to complete, winning the eastern playoff final and bringing a second straight championship to a city deprived of much success in the sporting world in recent years.


The accomplishment of a first place finish was almost over shadowed by Argos Quarterback Ricky Rays stellar performance.  Ray had the first 500-yard passing performance of his CFL career and completed 39-of-45 passes — including a club-record 21 straight — for 505 total yards including three TDs in Toronto’s 36-21 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers .

Toronto (11-6) will finish the regular season hosting the Montreal Alouettes next Friday night and head coach Scott Milanovich said Ray won’t dress for that contest. That means Ray’s next game will be Nov. 17 in the East final at Rogers Centre.

“I can tell you right now Ricky Ray will not be playing next week,” Milanovich said emphatically. “He’ll be standing beside me on the sidelines without gear on, we can end the speculation right now.”

Milanovich’s decision also means Ray will finish the season with a 77.7 per cent completion average, breaking the CFL single-season mark of 73.98 per cent held by Calgary offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson. Predictably, the humble Ray downplayed the career performance.

“It was just one of those nights we had a lot of opportunities to make plays and were able to finish most of them,” Ray said. “But we left a lot out there, we had a couple of turnovers and I missed Chad Owens on an easy touchdown.

“We still have a lot of things to clean up.”

Ray broke the Argos record of 19 straight completions in the third and finished one short of the CFL mark when he threw an incompletion to running back Chad Kackert, back after missing two games with a shoulder injury. But Argos receivers Jason Barnes and Andre Durie both lost fumbles deep in Winnipeg’s zone following big completions by Ray that helped the Bombers (3-14) hang around.

Ray cemented the win with a 69-yard TD pass to Dontrelle Inman at 12:16 of the fourth.

Toronto finishes atop the East Division for the first time since ’07 and just the third time since ’97. More importantly, the Argos cemented home-field advantage for the conference final by sweeping the home-and-home series with Winnipeg after dropping two straight games to Hamilton.

“This was our goal at the start of the year to get that one playoff game at home and we were able to do it,” Ray said. “There were stumbling blocks along the way but to rebound after the two losses to Hamilton and come back and get two big wins was big for this team.”

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