There was a time when the Alouettes, and specifically Mike Pringle, were the Canadian Football League’s most-dominant rushing team.
But the Als endured four long and losing seasons and haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Tyrell Sutton in 2015.
That should change Friday night, when Montreal hosts Toronto. At some point during the game, William Stanback almost certainly will eclipse the barometer by which all tailbacks are measured. Stanback, who has missed three games this season, has 954 yards on 152 carries.
“In this league, 1,000 yards is meaningful because this is a passing league,” Stanback said Wednesday. “There’s only three downs. Running backs tend not to have the opportunity to get the ball as much as receivers. It means a lot if you’re establishing the run game and having a 1,000-yard season.”
Stanback, in his second season with the Als — and perhaps his last if the pending free agent tries his luck in the NFL — hasn’t produced 1,000 yards since 2016, while in college at Virginia Union.
“It’s what you want as a running back. Anybody wants that. It means a lot for a running back, especially in this league,” he said. “But it’s not my goal. It’s something in the back of my head, but I want to win. The yards come after.”
Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris has a league-leading 1,261 yards despite missing two games while serving a drug-related suspension, but he’s also the featured player in the Blue Bombers’ offensive system. Harris has 199 carries — 24 last Saturday against Montreal — and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Stanback, with 152 carries, has a 6.28-yard average.
“I feel I’m as good as Harris, but I have to let my play do the talking,” Stanback said. “He’s fortunate to be in that system, where they trust him with the ball. He’s like their guy. I respect him and he’s a hard worker. I heard about him before I stepped into the role I have this year. He does what he has to on the field and backs it up.”
Als receiver Eugene Lewis should also pass 1,000 yards, perhaps against the Argonauts as well. He enters Friday’s game with 937 yards and would become the first Montreal receiver since B.J. Cunningham in 2017 to surpass the total.
Lewis never has achieved 1,000 yards. Not in college or even high school.
“It’s one of the goals that I’ve had. I’ve always known I had the potential,” he said. “It would be a blessing because it’s my first one. Just to prove people who thought I couldn’t do it or thought I was just a regular receiver.
“There’s a lot of guys on this team that, I think, exceeded expectations.”
Notes — Offensive-tackle Kennedy Estelle didn’t break his hand, according to head coach Khari Jones, but he definitely won’t play against Toronto. He’ll be replaced by Chris Schleuger. Guard Sean Jamieson also will probably miss the game.
On defence, neither rush-end John Bowman nor cornerback Tommie Campbell have practised. If they can’t go on Friday, they would be replaced by JaVon Rolland-Jones and Justin Gibbons, respectively. Gibbons would be making his Als debut. He was on Edmonton’s practice roster last season.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019