Lapointe singled out

Eric Lapointe will be the lone starting running back for the Als in the Eastern final, a rarity for...

Eric Lapointe will be the lone starting running back for the Als in the Eastern final, a rarity for a Canadian. (Toronto Sun File Photo)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Vive la difference!

When Eric Lapointe starts as the lone running back for the host Montreal Alouettes against the Argos in Sunday's Eastern Division final, history of sorts will be made.

Some teams use a Canadian, but usually in tandem with an American in the backfield.

Most teams employ either a lone American back -- such as the Argos with John Avery -- or a combination of an import and non-import. The non-import is used for blocking purposes, which will be the case when Jeff Johnson lines up to block for Avery.

The Als are expected to employ five receivers and one running back, which makes this somewhat unique.

"I'm happy for him," Johnson said yesterday when asked if he's envious of Lapointe. "He's continued to work and he's got his opportunity. I'm going to continue to do the same thing and, hopefully, I'll get a chance some time down the road."

Lapointe had a stellar career at Mount Allison. Partially because CFL teams place a premium on signing Americans, he was not selected until the third round (20th overall) in 1999.

The Edmonton Eskimos took Lapointe, but released him in training camp because he didn't fit into the plans of then head coach Don Matthews. Five years later, Matthews has made Lapointe his featured running back.

It didn't come easy for Lapointe. He signed with Hamilton as a free agent after the Eskimos released him. While he racked up an impressive 691 yards on 105 carries, he couldn't displace an American for the full-time starting role.

Yet, his rookie season caught the attention of J.I. Albrecht, who took over the managerial duties of the Argos in 2000. On the eve of training camp, Lapointe was dealt to Toronto, along with the rights to safety Orlondo Steinauer and a first-round pick for high-profiled middle linebacker Mike O'Shea.

CONTROVERSIAL

It was considered a controversial move, but Albrecht believed Lapointe could become a star running back.

Lapointe never got the chance because of injuries and an emerging American back -- Michael Jenkins.

The Montreal native signed the following season as a free agent with the Als and now, following a litany of American running backs, including Autry Denson and Jonas Lewis this year, Lapointe has received the biggest chance of his career.

"I think it's a good move. He's their best back," Argos defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler said.

In this year's regular-season finale, Lapointe produced a 77-yard touchdown run in a 58-20 Als romp over the Argos.

"Every time he's had an opportunity to be in there, he's done extremely well," Johnson said. "Injuries have hindered him a little bit, but it's good to see him in there now. He deserves it and he'll perform, too."


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