Who'll be the X-Men?

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:27 PM ET

The intensity of post-season football has a way of taking a flickering light and turning it into a star.

When the CFL playoffs begin, some performers step up to the challenge while others wilt away.

Last year, running back Tony Stallings emerged with an outstanding performance against the Edmonton Eskimos after spending most of the season in obscurity on the Calgary Stampeders practice roster.

So who will exceed expectations today when the Stamps play the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal?

Both backup running back Wes Cates and reserve receiver Ron Johnson have nominated themselves for a star performance.

"In this type of situation, somebody will step up and help get this team to the next round," said Cates, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his first CFL season.

"With the intensity level and these teams matching up so well, it will be that X-factor -- that guy who isn't expected to do something huge -- who will come up with a big game."

The opportunity should be there for Cates and Johnson to do well.

Both are athletic players who can move around co-ordinator Steve Buratto's offensive formations and get themselves open.

Johnson, who has missed the past three games with a knee injury, will be called upon to pick up the blitz or line up as a tight end in some formations.

He has also taken reps as a fullback and tailback in this week's practices and will have many roles in the offence.

"The more plays I make before the ('Riders) realize I'm out there is a plus," said Johnson, who was working with running backs coach Gino DiVincentis this week.

Cates is also ready for his chance.

"We always have a few wrinkles in the game plan and, for a guy like me who can line up in a bunch of different places, this is ideal for me," Cates said.

"We're looking for throw different looks at them."


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