July 18, 2014

Morris: Lumbala playing quiet but important role in BC


Producing a winning football team can be a bit like making a movie. You have your big stars who play the major roles but there’s also the character actors who may go unnoticed but carry the plot.

There’s little doubt running back Andrew Harris was the headliner in the B.C. Lions’ 26-13 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week. B.C. will need Harris to shine again when the Lions look for their second win of the CFL season against the Montreal Alouettes at BC Place Stadium Saturday.

Harris collected 232 all-purpose yards against the Roughriders, earning him both top offensive and Canadian player-of-the-week awards. The 27-year-old from Winnipeg rushed for 138 yards on 18 carries plus scored a touchdown on a 58-yard ramble. He also caught five passes for a team-high 65 yards.

While Harris played to rave reviews, fullback Rolly Lumbala had a supporting role that may have been missed by many fans but drew praise from the Lions’ coaching staff and his teammates.

Lumbala isn’t someone who can be type cast. He’s a special teams captain for the Lions. He can line up in the backfield for pass protection or slide up to the offensive line as a tight end to give extra blocking.

“It’s more tools for me to get better at,” said the 28-year-old who is playing in his seventh season with the Lions. “It’s kind of cool to be on the line and block the big boys.”

“I take a lot of pride in it and just do the best I can.”

Lumbala is listed at six-foot-one and 238 pounds. During his career he has collected 109 yards on 32 carries, one good game for most running backs.

What the numbers don’t show is Lumbala’s strength is matched by his quickness. He led the Lions in special team tackles last year with 19. He also has the sure hands to catch a pass and can be a bulldozer when handed the ball.

Lions’ coach Mike Benevides said everyone on the team understands Lumbala’s contributions.

“Rolly is the best fullback in this league,” said Benevides. “There is nothing like him. He’ll play multiple positions.”

“You can’t find his body type. When you are looking for a guy that can move like him, and do the things he does, he brings tremendous value to our football team. Any head coach across the league would love to have Rolly Lumbala.”

Lumbala has played tight end in the past but it’s a position he will see more of this season in the schemes introduced by new offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones.

“It’s fun,” said Lumbala. “You get into the game more.”

Dan Dorazio, B.C.’s offensive line coach, said using Lumbala at tight end gives the Lions several options.

“He’s a very good blocker,” said Dorazio. “He also adds a dimension where he can release and catch a pass.”

“You can’t live in it all the time but it’s a way to be a little bit more efficient offensively.”

Quarterback Kevin Glenn said Lumbala adds extra protection plus gives him another option with the ball.

“Rolly is an athletic guy,” said Glenn, who will start again in place of the injured Travis Lulay. “Using him and getting him involved will oppose a bigger threat to the defence.”

“Now they have to worry about not just Andrew coming out of the backfield but also Rolly.”

Like any offensive player Lumbala would love to see the ball more but understands his role.

“He knows when it (the ball) is supposed to come to him and it will come to him,” said Glenn. “He does everything he’s supposed to until the time comes.”

Besides Lumbala, the Lions have also used wide receivers Shawn Gore and Emmanuel Arceneaux at the tight-end spot. Harris even expects to see some time there against Montreal.

“Just the mixture of those players, it throws off the defence a little bit and switches things up,” said Harris.

Finding his legs against the Riders was a confidence boost for Harris. In the Lions previous two losses he had 63 yards on 18 carries. 

“Last week is over,” said Harris. “I’m not thinking about last at all.”

“It’s a new team and a new challenge.”

The Lions feel they have a score to settle against Montreal. B.C. lost 24-9 to the Als two weeks ago in a game where Harris was limited to just 26 yards rushing and Glenn was sacked five times.

“We have to deal with a team that embarrassed us a couple of weeks ago,” said Benevides.

“I’m not happy at all with the way it went two weeks ago. We got our asses kicked. We have to find a way to get it done.”

The Alouettes have struggled playing under the dome in Vancouver.  The last time Montreal won at BC Place Stadium was back in August of 2002.  In their last three games in Vancouver the Als have been outscored 122-25.

“I hope we can add to that,” said Harris. “We have to get on them fast and sustain it.”