Armstrong is first-rate in 2nd chance

November 13, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

His only previous touchdown in the playoffs had come three years ago, in a game his team lost and during a time when he didn't feel as though he was making much of a contribution.

Baltimore CFLs slot receiver Chris Armstrong didn't know if he'd get another chance in the post-season, especially after being released by two teams in the past two years.

When it happened yesterday, he took full advantage, catching five passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns, as Baltimore blew past the Toronto Argonauts, 34-15, in the Eastern Division semifinals at Memorial Stadium.

Armstrong's first touchdown gave Baltimore an 18-10 lead with 2:04 left before halftime. The Argonauts wouldn't get any closer.

The CFLs had the ball on Toronto's 20-yard line when quarterback Tracy Ham dropped back, looked down the middle of the field and saw Armstrong, who made a sliding catch at the goal line for his 19th touchdown of the season.

"They were in a zone, and Tracy made a great throw," Armstrong said. "It was a situation where either I was going to catch it or it was going to be incomplete."

With 5:11 remaining in the game and Baltimore leading, 27-13, Armstrong pulled down a 16-yard scoring pass despite having ** cornerback Tommy Henry draped on his back.

Twice, the coverage was good. And twice, Armstrong came up with the ball, as he has all season.

"Chris has been catching the ball well all year in tight situations," Ham said. "I've got to get the ball to people who have been doing it for us all year. I can't change that."

Armstrong wouldn't want him to do anything differently. When ++ the CFLs get close to the end zone, he expects Ham to look his way.

"Field position dictates a lot of things that happen, especially when you get down inside the 20," Armstrong said. "And it's a great feeling for a receiver to know that everybody is pulling for you."

On the second touchdown, Henry was stride for stride with Armstrong, and wound up on the seat of his pants, pounding the turf in frustration.

"In man-to-man coverage, I think the receiver should win," Armstrong said. "That was just a great thrown ball by Tracy. I think that says a lot for his arm and the type of talent that he has."

How did this playoff experience compare to his first, when he caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Ham while with the Edmonton Eskimos in 1991?

"I felt more a part of this one," Armstrong said. "This one is more special to me. I was a vital part of our offense here, from the first game to this game. You feel better when you're more involved."

Armstrong finished the regular season with 72 receptions for 1,586 yards, making him a strong contender for all-CFL honors. But that can wait. There's another playoff game ahead, maybe two.

He often wondered if there would be such games in his future.

"You have to keep that positive attitude and know the Lord is going to give you the opportunity," he said. "In everybody's life, there are doubts, when you wonder why things aren't happening as fast as you want them to. It's just a matter of perseverance. I persevered and I'm here and I'm trying to make the best of an opportunity."

+ He did just that yesterday.

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