'It's our time' to win Grey Cup, Alouettes' William Stanback says

“We’ve been through so much adversity; more than I believe any other team in this league,” tailback says.

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In a season that was difficult emotionally, if not also physically, Alouettes tailback William Stanback always had one mission — helping his team get into the Grey Cup.

And he finally succeeded.

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Montreal will meet the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. It’s the Als’ first appearance in the CFL championship game since 2010, when they captured their second consecutive title. The Als are seeking their eighth Cup victory in franchise history and have never met Winnipeg in the title game.

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Stanback, who has been with the team since 2018 (only guard Kristian Matte has been with Montreal longer), has come to appreciate the hardships endured by the organization.

“We’ve been through so much adversity; more than I believe any other team in this league,” Stanback told the Montreal Gazette by telephone from Hamilton. “Just in the past four or five years when it comes to coaches changing, general managers, owners, presidents, everything.

“We haven’t been here in so long,” added Stanback, 29. “I feel like the Alouettes in the CFL are the least-liked team. I feel like every year every (other team) gets all this recognition and love. We’re like the outcast team. I feel like it’s our time. We deserve it because of all the work we’ve put in.”

As the only Quebec-based team, and with a largely francophone fan base, Stanback said he believes the Als don’t receive enough credit. Indeed, despite finishing second in the East Division (11-7), only two players — receiver Austin Mack and safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy — were named CFL all-stars. Dequoy, however, is also the division nominee as the league’s outstanding Canadian; the awards ceremony taking place Thursday night.

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While the Bombers are making their fourth consecutive Cup appearance, and are seeking their third victory, Montreal has won seven consecutive games, including five at season’s end. The Als dominated Toronto on the road in last Saturday’s division final, spanking the Argonauts, 38-17. It marked Montreal’s first victory this season over a club with a winning record, and Stanback believes the Als are a team of destiny.

“I’m so happy how this team has played,” he said. “The performances we put out this playoff run. I just know we have all the tools … to get the job done this weekend. It’s all about staying focused and not letting the week take over. I’m mentally determined to come out here and dominate at a high level.

“This is going to go down, when we win this, as the best team in Alouettes’ history.”

Coming off 2022, when he fractured his ankle in the opening game, Stanback had lofty goals this season and was optimistic he could duplicate his 2021 campaign, when he led the CFL in rushing (1,176 yards) and was the division nominee as outstanding player. While Stanback gained 800 yards on 147 carries, for a 5.4-yard average, he dressed for only 14 games due to injuries and illness. Head coach Jason Maas also wanted Stanback well rested for the playoff run.

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Stanback initially struggled with that philosophy, but said he now better understands Maas’s thought process. Nonetheless, the Argos kept Stanback contained, held to 15 yards on nine carries. He was more productive as a receiver out of the backfield, with three catches for 39 yards.

The Als’ offence has struggled throughout the season and managed a modest two touchdowns against Toronto, not finding the end zone until five minutes into the third quarter. Montreal scored two defensive touchdowns and one on special teams.

“When you look at the production, we were 2-for-2 in the red zone and had many explosive plays,” Stanback said. “Sometimes we have to figure out ways to punch it in when we get into the red zone; make sure we come through. Our offence did just enough to get the job done. Our defence, obviously, is stellar, stout and tough to beat. Offensively, I think we did enough to help our team.”

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