Home again in McMahon

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

If the schedule said McMahon Stadium, Rolly Lumbala knew the game was a big deal.

Some things never change.

Lumbala, a Calgary product in his rookie campaign with the B.C. Lions, will rumble onto the turf today at McMahon, the same field he led the St. Francis Browns to back-to-back city high school championships in 2002 and '03.

"Every time you come here (in high school), you're in the playoffs," Lumbala said.

"Coming out of this tunnel, it's just great memories, and I hope we can continue the tradition."

With a win in next week's West semifinal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Lumbala and the Leos would return to Calgary in two weeks to meet the Stamps in the division final.

That's a priority for the rookie fullback, who made his Lions debut in Calgary in the regular-season opener June 26. Looking back, the 22-year-old says it's hard to believe his freshman campaign is almost in the books.

"It's been a blast and it's kind of been a dream, also," Lumbala said.

"Everything happens so fast and I'm just trying to take it all in, just trying to be a big sponge right now."

Lumbala was a star in high school -- he scored four touchdowns in the '03 city championship game against the Bowness Trojans -- and a workhorse with the University of Idaho Vandals, but is paying his dues near the bottom of B.C.'s depth chart.

The 6-foot-1, 269-pounder has suited up for every game, gaining 28 yards on a dozen carries and reaching the endzone twice. He also has eight special teams tackles and has recovered one fumble.

"In all honesty, it's a little bit humbling, but I understand that you have to learn the game, and that's been my approach," Lumbala said. "I'm fortunate to be on a veteran team and learn from guys like (starting fullback) Lyle Green and a lot of other vets -- just kind of learn from what they say and what they do and how they prepare.

"It's to my advantage. If I don't take advantage of the knowledge those kind of people bring to me, that's my loss."

Coach Wally Buono figures the Lions have a pretty good prospect in Lumbala, who the team plucked in the second round of this year's CFL draft.

"He's a real pro, he works hard, but he is a natural football player," Buono said.

"Young guys, sometimes you're not always sure of, but whatever we've asked him to do, he's been very good at it. He's a big part of our special teams, a big part of our short-yardage package, and when we've asked him to carry the ball, he's done that well, too."

You won't catch him campaigning for more carries, but it's no secret Lumbala would love to have a big game against the Stampeders.

It wasn't that long ago he was watching games from the stands at McMahon Stadium. Now, he's providing tickets for family members and friends, as long as they follow one simple rule.

"They better not wear red."


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