Ante Milanovic-Litre believes it was a coincidence.
Sure, if you looked at the stats following last Friday’s win against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, you could jump to the conclusion that the Calgary Stampeders’ young Canadians all collectively got together and decided to have big breakout games at the exact same time.
But alas, that’s just not what happened.
“We don’t really see it as nationality, everybody’s a professional football player here and I think it was more of a coincidence than anything,” Milanovic-Litre said. “The plays, it just so happened that they went to Canadian guys. We didn’t really gameplan for Canadians or whatever. If the opportunities are going to come to us, it doesn’t matter who is out there, we’re going to capitalize.”
It’s not as if the Canadians aren’t always a part of the gameplan for the Stampeders, it’s just that their performances were especially notable against the Riders.
Milanovic-Litre, who is 24-years-old, caught fire in the second half at running back, busting through tackles and dragging defenders downfield as he bullied his way to big gains. He finished the game with eight carries for 43 yards.
Receiver Hergy Mayala, who is 23-years-old, meanwhile, caught the first two touchdown passes of his career and had five receptions for 70 yards. He’s been on a steady rise in recent weeks, but the Stamps’ first-round pick in the 2019 CFL Draft made headlines in a big way.
Royce Metchie, also 23, continued his exceptional sophomore season at safety and picked up his third interception of the season
On the offensive line, meanwhile, Ryan Sceviour, Zach Williams and Justin Lawrence — who are all 24-years-old or younger — were all exceptional against a Riders defensive line that can cause trouble for even the most seasoned opponents.
“I just think the young guys in general, myself, J-Law and Zach — considering that he didn’t even know he was going to play until four minutes before kickoff — it was big for us to step up and show how far we’ve come,” Sceviour said. “For the most part, we don’t really see nationality. It’s ‘This is who I’ve got and this is who I’m playing with’. “
The young Canadians may not necessarily view themselves as a group, but there’s no question that having them step up matters for the Stampeders.
The CFL’s ratio rules dictate that the team needs seven Canadian starters and it’s not hard to imagine this group forming a solid foundation to build around going forward.
“We’re a team. We don’t really try to focus too much (on nationality) but we understand there’s a ratio, so yeah, you have to find the right mix and the right guys,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “To be honest, it’s good to see those guys step up. Our team, (there’s) not a lot of household names but I do think there’s confidence there and I do think our guys are ready to play and they relish those opportunities, especially those younger guys.
“They want to get those balls thrown their way, more carries, make more plays. They’re stepping up.”
The Stampeders thought they were going to be playing without Shane Bergman.
Up against a tough Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive line, the Stamps found out right before kickoff that their starting left-guard wasn’t going to be available.
For a quarter and a half, they went head-to-head with the Riders and mostly managed just fine.
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Bergman came sprinting out of the locker room with his helmet, ready to play.
After the game, Dickenson acknowledged that Bergman’s return was massive for his team because they relied on him for a number of plays they had in their gameplan.
It provided a boost to just about everyone, and fellow offensive lineman Sceviour described it in the most dramatic of terms.
‘It was like that scene in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf comes over the mountain right at the end of (the Battle of Helm’s Deep),” Sceviour said. “He’s riding with the cavalry and you think ‘Alright, here we go’. “
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019