Hometown boy does good in East-West Bowl
By JOSH WEBSTER -- SLAM! Sports
It turns out West is best, at least for one day.
Derek Medler used home field to his advantage on Saturday afternoon, scoring the only touchdown in the inaugural CIS East-West Bowl at University Stadium in Waterloo, Ontario as the West defeated the East 10-5.
It figures that a local boy would steal the show. With the West holding a 3-2 advantage in the second quarter, Medler, a running back from Wilfrid Laurier, caught a flare pass from Alberta quarterback Darryl Salmon and ran 15 yards to pay dirt. The Golden Hawk also rushed for 53 yards and was named the West's MVP for his performance.
Medler was second in CIS rushing last season with 871 yards on the ground. He was named as a second team all-star in the OUA for his efforts.
With a total of 15 points being scored by both teams, it's pretty obvious it wasn't a real barnburner for either offence.
"(It was) pretty grueling, actually," said Medler. "Considering the caliber of defence we were playing against, you can't really run outside of them. If you try to stretch it out, they're too fast. There's not very many weak links on the defence when you're playing in an all-star game, so you just have to pound it up the middle and hope for the best."
One of the reasons the West offence couldn't get going was the play of McGill's Mike Mahoney. The linebacker had three tackles, three assists and three sacks to take the East MVP honours.
The Regina, Saskatchewan native and 2002 CIS second team defensive all-star was surprised at the lack of offence on both sides of the ball.
"I think one of the problems is the offence usually takes a little longer to click," reflected Mahoney. "To try and get an offence ready in three days is a pretty tough thing. But I think our d-line had a hell of a game. (Bruce) Nelson played really well, and the Concordia guys (Troy) Cunningham and (Chris) Jewell had a couple of sacks, they played really well. They had pressure all day. I think that was a huge part of it."
Other notable performances include:
Wide receiver Chad Rempel of Saskatchewan had five catches for 122 yards, including a 48-yard reception.
Salmon was the best quarterback of the game, completing seven of 10 pass attempts for 149 yards.
J.F. Tremblay of Laval had a kick off return of 75 yards to begin the second half.
Punting was a key part of the game, and Toronto's George Chilakos had a golden boot, averaging 44 yards per punt, including a 63-yard kick. He twice pinned the West inside it's own five-yard line, and once made it into the end zone for a rouge.
Cornerback Pascal Masson of Laval had an interception.
Toronto linebacker Derek Wheeler made five tackles and assisted on another.
Simon Fraser's Neil McKinlay also made five tackles and had two assists.
Eighty-four players, the majority entering their CFL draft-year in 2004, were invited to Waterloo for a week of evaluation and practices leading up to the East-West Bowl game. A committee of CIS head coaches selected the players, who were first nominated by their respective schools.
The event is the brainchild of McMaster head coach Greg Marshall, and gives a great opportunity for the selected players to test their skills against the best in the country.
Although it is a first time event, you could tell speaking to the two MVPs how much they enjoyed taking part in such a project.
"I'll appreciate it so much probably later on," said Medler. "You don't forget something like this, the caliber of athletes that we're playing with out here. It's a dream come true, actually. And all the scouts that are watching, it gives you really good exposure for the CFL, if you're looking to continue on in pro (football)."
"When you take three or four guys off each team and you're one of them, you get to come and represent your team and your conference with the best guys in Canada, so it's a huge honour," added Mahoney. "As soon as I found out, I was really excited."
"The guys came out and had a good time. It's good to come out here and meet guys from all across the country. All and all I think it was a pretty successful day and successful week."
Not everyone playing in the game will make it to the CFL, but the enthusiasm is there for the players to give it their best shot.
"If I get a shot, I'd love to try, for sure," explained Mahoney. "If the opportunity arises, I'm going to bust my ass and try to get myself to that level. If somebody gives me a shot, I'm going to be there and go for as long as I can. I'd love to try and make the jump. It will take a lot of hard work, but I think I have a shot at doing it."
It is doubtful that one's performance in the East-West Bowl will make or break a career in the CFL. But it's a good way to kick off what could be the most important year in their university careers.
If Medler has it his way, he'll be scoring touchdowns in a CFL stadium near you in the not too distant future.
"That's my ultimate goal."
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