Pow­ell lights it up for Red­blacks

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - TIM BAINES tbaines@post­media.com Twit­ter: @TimCBaines

As a kid, Wil­liam Pow­ell liked watch­ing fancy-footed Em­mitt Smith, who drove NFL de­fences nuts with his in­tu­ition — the abil­ity to dart in and out of traf­fic and fol­low his block­ers.

But it wasn’t just the for­mer Dal­las Cow­boys great that the Ottawa Red­blacks run­ning back pat­terned him­self af­ter.

“I liked watch­ing dif­fer­ent run­ning backs, but I wouldn’t say I mod­elled it af­ter any­one — it’s al­ways been more in­stinc­tual for me,” said Pow­ell, who has been on a tear dur­ing the past month; he has 835 rush­ing yards (in 12 games) with two reg­u­lar-sea­son games re­main­ing. Next up is a Fri­day night show­down with the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers.

A for­mer soc­cer player, Pow­ell said, “It seemed like it just came nat­u­ral to me, I found I was able to elude tack­lers. You have to be pa­tient. I like to think I can see the whole pic­ture hap­pen­ing in front of me. It’s like po­etry in mo­tion.”

Pow­ell has be­come a ma­jor weapon for the Red­blacks, do­ing what the team thought he could do when they signed him back in 2015. In that Cana­dian Foot­ball League rookie sea­son, he ran for 447 yards on 76 car­ries in seven games. But the for­mer Ari­zona Car­di­nal in­jured an Achilles ten­don in the first pre-sea­son game of 2016 and missed the year.

The first part of this sea­son, Pow­ell was in and out of the lineup, but he’s rushed for 530 yards in the past four games.

“This is the Wil­liam Pow­ell we were look­ing to get back,” said Red­blacks coach Rick Camp­bell.

“He had a pretty dev­as­tat­ing in­jury at the be­gin­ning of 2016. This year, he was just a bit nicked up and not quite healthy. We sat him out some ex­tra time to get him to where he was feel­ing 100 per cent. When he’s healthy and go­ing, he’s ob­vi­ously a spe­cial player. “He has a very good feel for where the hole is and he also has the abil­ity to make peo­ple miss in space. It doesn’t al­ways have to be com­pletely blocked up. He’s quick enough that he can make some­body miss. He gets the yards he’s sup­posed to, but he can also cre­ate some­thing out of noth­ing.”

Like they did in their suc­cess­ful Grey Cup drive of a year ago, the Red­blacks are keep­ing de­fences off bal­ance with a mix of the run and pass game.

“Wil­liam Pow­ell has been a dif­fer­ence-maker for us,” said quar­ter­back Trevor Har­ris.

“When our run game gets go­ing, we’re dif­fi­cult to stop. Later last year when Mos­sis (Madu Jr.) and Kienan (Lafrance) started go­ing, that’s when we started rolling as an of­fence and we be­came dif­fi­cult to stop.”

Pow­ell has plenty of help up front. The of­fen­sive line, still miss­ing Sir Vin­cent Rogers and Nolan MacMil­lan, is play­ing a big part in mak­ing it work.

“We have a great back, he’s prob­a­bly the hottest run­ning back in the league right now,” said Jon Gott, who will re­turn to the lineup at right guard (shift­ing from cen­tre) Fri­day af­ter miss­ing his team’s past four games. “Give him the ball, he’s been mak­ing great plays for us. This of­fence is com­ing to­gether for us. When we get all our guys back healthy, we should be dom­i­nat­ing.

“The credit has to go to the OC (of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Jaime El­i­zondo), he’s be­liev­ing in the run, he’s be­liev­ing in the guys we have up front and we’re com­mit­ting to it. It’s hard not to con­tinue to run when you’re hav­ing so much suc­cess.”

Pow­ell isn’t think­ing about 1,000 yards or any of the other in­di­vid­ual goals — it’s more about beat­ing Saskatchewan, then Hamil­ton in two weeks and go­ing into the play­offs with mo­men­tum. “I feel like the great teams have a bal­ance — run and pass,” he said. “If we can keep that go­ing, keep that bal­ance, we’ll be a hard team to beat.” THE BIG CHILL: It’s sup­posed to be cold here Fri­day night at game time, with tem­per­a­tures maybe dip­ping be­low 0 C. Asked if the cold is a fac­tor, Har­ris an­swered: “I ran out on the field (Thurs­day), it’s go­ing to be 3 de­grees colder at kick­off, it’ll get to about 6 de­grees colder than it is right now. It’s fine.” THE END AROUND: The Red­blacks aren’t get­ting much re­spect for their game in Regina. All seven mem­bers of the cfl.ca panel picked the Riders to win. It was the only unan­i­mous choice of the week­end — even Hamil­ton got two votes to beat Calgary ... Sev­eral of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive line­men got stuck in an el­e­va­tor at the Delta Bess­bor­ough Ho­tel in Saska­toon on Wed­nes­day night ... Speak­ing of the Bess­bor­ough, it’s said to be haunted. As the story goes, the haunt­ing zones are the ball­room floor, third floor, eighth floor and in the stair­well. Some Red­blacks play­ers, in­clud­ing Ryan Lind­ley, An­toine Pruneau, Jon Gott and Jean-Philippe Bolduc, went in search of ghosts ... Es­tab­lish­ing some mo­men­tum Fri­day is im­por­tant for an Ottawa team that’s been in­con­sis­tent through 16 games this sea­son. Said Har­ris: “We limped into the play­offs last year — at 8-9-1 — and won it all. As long as we can get in and we’re play­ing well, that will be huge for us go­ing into the play­offs.”

JULIE OLIVER

Run­ning back Wil­liam Pow­ell has be­come a ma­jor weapon for the Ottawa Red­blacks, rush­ing for 530 yards over the past four games.

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