Local kicker may face Roughriders

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Life was a beach for Mark Irvin prior to yesterday.

Here's the kicker -- he gave it all up for a chance to go to Saskatchewan.

Irvin, a 27-year-old Gloucester native, admits he had been spending much of his summer frolicking in the sand and water at Petrie Island in Orleans with four-year-old daughter Tyanna when he recently thought about starting to look for work. Anything his management commerce degree could get him now will have to wait, however, as there is a "50-50" chance he'll be kicking for the Renegades when they take on the Roughriders at Taylor Field on Friday.

The even odds are what coach and GM Joe Paopao gives the likelihood of Matt Kellett making the trip. Kellett, who pulled a groin in practice last week and was unable to play in Thursday's loss to Edmonton, has been kicking a soccer ball, but probably won't participate in practice until tomorrow.

RIDERS EMBARRASSED

Irvin would happily step into the pressure-cooker that faces the Renegades. In Saskatchewan, they are taking on a Grey Cup contender that is back home after suffering an embarrassing loss to the Stampeders last Saturday.

"I'm excited. Everybody would love to play for their home-town team and I'm no exception," said the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder, who didn't play football until he was at Gloucester High School. "I grew up watching the Rough Riders. It would be a dream come true to help Ottawa win."

Irvin was one of five new faces at practice yesterday --but the only one that wasn't attached to the large body of an offensive lineman.

With import left tackle Reggie Nelson likely still sidelined for another week and centre Mike Sutherland joining right tackle Obby Khan on injured reserve, Paopao brought in two Americans and two Canadians for auditions. The non-imports are Samir Chahine, who finished last year with the Renegades and rejected a practice-roster offer a couple of weeks ago, and J.F. Joncas, who attended the football factory that is the University of Laval.

STARTED IN B.C.

The imports are two-year CFL veteran Fred Moore and Joe Johnson, who has been trying to catch on with a team in this league since 2001.

Moore was the Lions' starting left tackle through the 2004 Grey Cup game. He spent the first four weeks on injured reserve this season before being released last Monday. He's still not sure how he fell into disfavour with Lions coach Wally Buono.

"I had swelling in my knee and I had it drained, but I could have played," said the 27-year-old. "If that's what they call an injury ... it's one of Wally's games.

"I have no idea what happened there. One day I was The Man, and the next I was nobody. I still haven't gotten a direct answer why. I'm just happy to be gone and happy to be here."

Moore says he'd feel comfortable suiting up for the Renegades this week, despite the short prep time.

"It's up to the coaches ... I can learn the plays," he said. "If that's the question, there's no doubt about it."

Johnson is also eager to get in the lineup. He tried out for B.C. four years ago and spent the past two camps attempting to crack the Montreal Alouettes roster.

He was hanging around Montreal -- in case he was suddenly needed by Don Matthews -- when the Renegades called on the weekend.

"I just want to play," said Johnson. "I just haven't found a place to stick yet."

Paopao said the newcomers all have talent, but "they've got to know what they're doing.

"We don't have to make a decision for a couple of days. We'll go from there."

In the meantime, Irvin remains among those who will anxiously await tomorrow's roster declaration, confident they can do the job if called upon.

After high school, Irvin attended Mount Allison University, where he worked out with former Rough Rider kicker Terry Baker.

"He helped me take it to the next level," Irvin said. "It was the turning point of my career."

PAID WAY TO CALGARY

This year, he attended Ottawa's free-agent camp, but competition was deep with Kellett and Sandro Sciortinio expected to wage a battle that never transpired. So Irvin paid his own way to Calgary for a tryout with the Stamps, and when that didn't work out stopped in Saskatchewan for a tryout on the way home.

"I enjoyed my time in Saskatchewan, as I did in Calgary," said Irvin, who feels comfortable with his accuracy from inside 50 yards. "I took it as an opportunity to learn.

"I love the game. If you want a job, you do whatever it takes."

LATE HITS: Highly touted CB Crance Clemons (knee) practised in pads for the first time yesterday and Paopao replied "maybe" when asked if Clemons might play this week ... QB Kerry Joseph (ankle) and RB Josh Ranek (knee) will play ... LB Gerald Vaughn and DE Kai Ellis are expected to miss another week.


Videos

Photos