'D' must bottle up bowling ball

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Josh Ranek has been called 'The Little Ball of Hate' and 'The Bowling Ball with Legs.'

Neither is a flattering tag for an insurance salesman or fashion model but both are colourful nicknames hung on him by opposing defenders and speak volumes about the pint-sized Ottawa Renegades running back.

Linemen and linebackers across the CFL respect the diminutive ball carrier's ability to bust tackles, pile up valuable yardage and induce painful headaches the morning after games.

Stampeders linebacker Brian Clark argues the 5-ft. 8-in., 205-lb. locomotive provides one of the toughest tests the defence faces all season long.

"He's going to try to run right through you," said Clark, who along with the rest of the Stampeders defence will be tasked with trying to bottle up Ranek.

"He's not a power back but if he needs to be that, he can be that. He tries to be a guy who makes guys miss and get into the open field because once he gets past the front-seven, he causes a lot of trouble. We can't let him through our front seven.

"And he runs just as hard on the last play of the game as the first, so it's a game as linebackers you know you'll have a sore neck and a hurtin' head by the end of the game."

Ranek is fifth in league rushing through three games, posting a 5.4-yard average, after posting 1,000-yard seasons the past two years.

He's also the team's leading receiver with 13 catches for 130 yards.

Linebacker John Grace, a former teammate of Ranek's in Ottawa, said the running back tends to bowl over potential tacklers, hence one of his monikers.

"Ranek is more of a power back, inside the tackles," said Grace, who stared down elusive Charles Roberts last week in Winnipeg.

"He's not as shifty as Roberts, he's more like three yards and a cloud of dust back there. A tough guy who leds into you, absorbs the contact and runs hard.

"He's not going to cut back much or change direction. If the play is designed to go to a certain spot, that's where he goes. Where the flow starts, that's where the play will go."

While Ranek is dangerous running the ball, he's also become effective and difficult to tackle catching passes out of the backfield.

Ranek had only 12 carries for 63 yards last season when the teams met in Ottawa but hurt the Stampeders on a screen pass for a long gain to set up their 31-30 comeback win.

"He's 40 percent of their offence, so if you can slow Ranek down it takes their offence out of their rhythm. It's going to be key for us to slow him down," Grace said.

Stamps head coach Tom Higgins said the Renegades have maximized Ranek's potential.

"You always have to be aware of the other team's weapons and Ottawa has a very good running back who comes at you hard. You'd better be aware of what makes teams go and Josh Ranek is one of those keys," Higgins said. "They use him extremely well and when they're successful, it's when he has success."

FULL PLATE: If the Stampeders o-line looks a little sluggish tonight, fingers might be pointed at Jeff Pilon's mother.

Mama Pilon and her strapping son invited the entire unit to her Ottawa home last night for a barbecue where everyone, Jeff insisted, would be forced to clean their plates.

"She's putting on quite a big spread and I'm getting all the offensive line over," the 6-ft. 6-in., 312-lb. Ottawa native said the day before the feast, adding brother Marc Pilon, a Renegades defensive lineman, wasn't invited.


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