Dickenson: William Stanback is ‘a beast’ who the Riders ‘gotta stop’

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson is fully aware of how Montreal Alouettes’ running back William Stanback can take over a game.

“When he gets rolling it makes for a tough day on defences, so we gotta stop him first and foremost and our team knows that. When he’s going well, it makes life a lot easier for the Alouettes and a lot tougher for the defence. Very good player. I got a lot of respect for him.”

Stanback has recently emerged as a front-runner to be named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player. He has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in four of his last five games, including a 203-yard performance in last week’s win over the Toronto Argonauts.

The three-year veteran leads the league in rushing yards despite missing two games in October: one due to a rib injury and one due to food poisoning. He is averaging 6.6 yards per carry on the season, which is No. 1 in the CFL among players with 25 rushes or more.

“He’s a beast. He’s a runaway train that guy. He’s strong, he’s fast,” said Dickenson. “He was the best guy on their kickoff two years ago — not even close, best player in the league on kickoffs. Just a big, strong, fast guy that can carry people with him.”

Middle linebacker Deon Lacey is hoping to force Stanback to attack the perimeter of Saskatchewan’s defence, keeping the six-foot, 233-pound running back from making hay between the tackles.

“He’s a downhill runner. He does a good job at setting up his blocks between the A and B gaps. We gotta get him going sideways, come downhill and make good tackles,” said Lacey. “We just come to play ball. He’s a grown man, I’m a grown man. He puts his cleats on just like I do.”

The Riders have the CFL’s top-ranked run defence, allowing just 4.4 yards per carry and 73.8 yards per game. Lacey has been a big part of limiting opposing offences as has Canadian linebacker Micah Teitz, who leads the team with 51 defensive tackles.

Saskatchewan had a tough time containing Ka’Deem Carey at times during their recent three-game stint against the Calgary Stampeders, though they held him to 62 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in a Week 12 victory.

Lacey believes that Stanback is stronger than Carey, the league’s second-leading rusher, which means the Riders will have their hands full when they visit the Als on Saturday. Both teams enter the game with a 6-4 record with the winner clinching a playoff spot in their respective division.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.