Leap for Milt-kind

JIM BENDER

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

It was a moment of PURE exhilaration.

And we mean pure in every sense of the word.

Winnipeg's sensational slotback Milt Stegall finally scored the 138th touchdown of his amazing career -- the all-time CFL high -- in the second quarter of last night's game against Hamilton. And the reaction of both his teammates and the 29,533 thrilled fans who were chanting "STE-GALL! STE-GALL!" in the stadium stands raised goose bumps for anyone capable of football emotion. And that includes most of us in the press box who are supposed to be unbiased.

NOT TARNISHED

For the record, Blue Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn managed to get a shovel pass to Stegall, who then got the one yard needed -- one small step for a man, one giant leap for 'Milt-kind.'

And by 'Milt-kind,' we mean those whose accomplishments have never been tarnished by suggestions of steroids, blood doping, dog fights, cockfights, barroom fights or even DUIs.

In fact, the 37-year-old veteran is still in such good shape in both mind and body, he could probably play for at least another three years -- and still remain on top of his game. Stegall actually caught eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, both milestones last night.

"It couldn't happen to a better guy," said Bomber middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, a practising minister. "Milt's the ageless one. He plays great year in and year out. For him to get the record was special. It was real special."

The talented Turtle Man deserves all the accolades he has gotten and will continue to get. And he has proven you don't need any artificial substances to become the best you can be.

In fact, Stegall was jokingly asked if he planned to celebrate by getting drunk last night.

"If you can get drunk on water and lemon, that's what I'd do," he responded.

And now that Stegall's pursuit of perhaps the most impressive CFL record of all time is over, he can turn his attention towards the only prize that has eluded him the last dozen years -- a Grey Cup ring.

"I never said I didn't want the touchdown record but my only goal is to win the Grey Cup and we're a long way from that," he said. "We've got a long way to go but we're building character every single week."

They needed that character last night. The Bombers temporarily lost their focus in the aftermath of the on-field celebrations. His major had given Winnipeg a 14-6 lead at the 8:17 mark of the second quarter. But when play resumed, it was the Ticats who were sparked by being part of history.

Hamilton outscored the Bombers 12-3 after that TD, taking an 18-17 lead early in the final quarter.

Then the giants within the Bombers awoke. After a 13-yard Nick Setta field goal that had given Hamilton a one-point edge, the Bombers responded like the champions they want to be. They marched the ball smartly 75 yards down the field, capping it off with a one-yard Charles Roberts major and a two-point convert. That gave Winnipeg a 25-17 lead.

Then, just to punctuate the performance, Stegall scored touchdown No. 139 when he grabbed a 35-yard TD toss from Glenn with less than two minutes left.

And the bottom line is the Bombers took the next step in their evolution. The contenders conquered when they were expected to conquer. Now, they have to do it again next week in Hamilton.

"We've taken another step with a W but we've got to take it to another level than what we played in this game in the passing game," Simpson said. "We've got to get much better."


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