Photo courtesy of Boris Terzic
A total of eight players with CJFL experience were selected this week at the CFL Draft.
The day started on a high when former Westshore Rebels offensive lineman Dontae Bull was taken first overall by the Ottawa RedBlacks. He saw limited time with the Rebels in 2017.
The next CJFLer to hear his name came in the second round when the Edmonton Elks took defensive back Jacob Taylor who played for the St. Clair (Fratmen) Saints in the 2016 season. He helped a very stringy defence who allowed 15 points a game during the campaign.
In the third-round defensive lineman Kwadwo Boahen who spent time with the Canadian Bowl champion Okanagan Sun last season was picked 22nd overall by the Calgary Stampeders. Oddly enough is only season in the CJFL was in 2022 and he was taken 22nd overall.
Another defensive star in the CJFL was selected in the fourth round when defensive lineman Tanner Schmekel was chosen by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 35th overall. Schmekel played the 2019 season with the Regina Thunder collecting eight tackles, had five assists, forced a fumble and put pressure on the opposing quarterback countless times.
Tight-end Sebastian Howard was the first of three former CJFL payers to be drafted in the sixth round. Howard was taken by the Stampeders, 49th overall after playing for the Langley Rams in 2019. He was part of a Rams team that when undefeated throughout the regular season and hosted the Canadian Bowl that season.
Cameron Fair was the lone CJFL kicker taken in the draft when he was selected 51st by the Stampeders. He spent the 2017 season as a member of the GTA Grizzlies connecting on eight field goals and averaged almost 30 yards a punt.
Linebacker Ife Onyemenam was the only player with CJFL experience to be chosen by the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argos. He was taken 54th overall, in the sixth round after playing the 2019 and 2022 seasons with the Regina Thunder.
The final CJFL player in the draft was running back Derek Best (pictured) who carried the rock for the Langley Rams in 2021 and 2022. He was selected 65th overall by the Edmonton Elks. During the Rams 2021 Canadian Bowl championship season he rushed 29 times for 204 yards and scored three majors. In the title game he scored the Rams lone rushing touchdown on 11 carries and picked up 55 yards. Then in 2022 he was even better with 381 yards on 60 carries and scored another three touchdowns.
Good luck to all eight players as they now head to their respective team camps.
It will be a busy CJFL weekend across the country as six teams will open their 2023 Spring Camp.
The Edmonton Huskies are the first this weekend to kick-off, which they will on Thursday. The Huskies are coming off a season that saw them finish 5-3 and in third place in the Prairie Conference. They fell to the Saskatoon Hilltops in the Prairie Conference playoffs ending their campaign.
This Spring Camp is the Huskies first step in replacing the multi-talented Alex Gayle who has now graduated from the program. Last season he was their primary threat rushing for 923 yards on 150 carries and scored 10 touchdowns. He was named the Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and will be very difficult to replace.
The Huskies open the regular season on Sunday August 13 when they host the Winnipeg Rifles.
The defending Prairie Conference champion Regina Thunder will open their camp on Friday after several indoor winter sessions. The coaching staff have some very important decisions to make heading into this season after the graduation of a number of key pieces.
Over the last two seasons the Thunder haven’t lost a regular season game and are looking to come out of the gate strong once again in 2023. Their final game last year ended in heartbreak, losing the Canadian Bowl on their home turf after leading at halftime.
Once again, the Thunder expect a large turnout of players to attend this weekend as they begin preparation to open the new campaign on the road on Sunday August 13th when they visit the Calgary Colts.
The Saskatoon Hilltops open their Spring Camp on Friday with another large contingent of players expected. Their club has run a series of winter sessions, but now they get to head outdoors and evaluate their players on the big field.
The Toppers once again have high hopes coming into the regular season after falling in the Prairie Conference title game a year ago.
No doubt this coaching staff and the returning players are ready to buckle up and get back to their championship winning ways. They will open the regular season at home on Sunday August 13 when they host the Edmonton Wildcats.
Speaking of the Wildcats, they are another CJFL team that opens Spring Camp this weekend.
This will be first under new head coach Kevin Wuthrich as they look to try and improve off their winless record from last season.
The Wildcats are expecting a big turnout this weekend even though they are completing with their crosstown rivals the Edmonton Huskies who are holding camp at the same time.
Over in the BC Conference the Langley Rams open Spring Camp this weekend under new head coach Jordan McCarty. The former quarterback of the Rams rejoins the club and will look to bring them back to their playoff winning ways. The Rams are just two seasons removed from their Canadian Bowl championship in 2021.
Last season the Rams finished 5-5 and made an early exit in the playoffs, but it did give their returning players a taste of the CJFL post season. Offensively last year they did struggle to score points, so it will be interesting to see how a former quarterback can bring life back into the Rams.
They will open the 2023 season on Saturday July 29 when they visit the Valley Huskers.
The Kamloops Broncos begin their march back to the postseason this weekend when they open Spring Camp.
Traditionally the Broncos have a very solid showing of players, and this weekend should be no different as the club has recruited several top-notch athletes. The coaching staff will see the fruits of their labour as they hit beautiful Hillside Stadium beginning on Friday, then finishing off on Sunday with a live scrimmage.
Last season the Broncos just missed the playoffs by one win, something that will no doubt motivate their returning players when they open the schedule on the road at Westshore on August 5th. As a matter of fact, the Broncos actually open the season with five straight road games, then finish with five straight at home.
As the calendar closes the 2022 chapter, a handful of CJFL teams look back and remember one of the moments that defined their season. Happy New Year from our CJFL family.
Okanagan Sun: winning the 2022 Canadian Bowl brought the CJFL tile back to Kelowna for the first time in 22 seasons. The impressive come-from-behind 21-19 victory in Regina turned out to be one of the most exciting Canadian Bowls in CJFL history. It was the first franchise win for the Sun in the Prairies and second straight title for the BC Conference while on the road.
Regina Thunder: the Prairie Conference champion Thunder had several exciting moments of 2022 including hosting the Canadian Bowl and they were the recipient of the first Rick Smoke team award showing outstanding community service. However, the true spirit of the Regina community was on display during their Conference semi-final when they hosted the Winnipeg Rifles. After a massive snowstorm Leibel Field was left unattended so players, coaches, parents, and fans had to grab their shovels and snowblowers to clear the field and get it into game ready condition. It was an incredible undertaking, but the teamwork displayed truly defined their 2022 season.
Ottawa Sooners: CJFL football returned to the nation’s capital in 2022 as the Sooners finished third in the Ontario Conference, qualifying for the Canadian Bowl playoffs. One of their favourite moments came in Week 3 of the season when they travelled to Hamilton to face the Hurricanes for the first time since 2019. Their seven-point road win was highlighted by an 85-yard defensive touchdown after a strip sack. That play showed the toughness of their defence which made them a legitimate contender and put them on track for #4 on the CJFL Power Rankings.
Valley Huskers: in Chilliwack the Valley Huskers were a difficult team to play against in 2022 as they finished the regular season with a 7-3 overall record and qualified for the CJFL Canadian Bowl playoffs. Their running attack was outstanding led by the 1000-yard rusher Reece Wyke behind a big, nasty offensive line. Quarterback Josh Janssen was solid and had a career game at the VI Raiders in September where he threw for 416 yards on 26 completions and threw eight touchdown passes. That said, their most memorable moment of the past season was the fact they were able to sweep their closest rivals the Langley Rams for the first time in franchise history with scores of 14-7 and 23-22.
Saskatoon Hilltops: all season long the Saskatoon Hilltops were electrified by CJFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Charles Sawi. On a team that doesn’t often play their rookies, Sawi was an exception at the receiver spot and returning kicks. As a matter of fact, it was one of his exciting returns that is the team’s moment of 2022. Against their provincial rivals, the Regina Thunder on September 10th at SMF Field, Sawi caught a missed field goal and quickly turned the tide with a highlight reel return, sprinting 125-yards the other direction for a touchdown in the rain.
Langley Rams: coming into the 2022 season the Langley Rams were the defending Canadian Bowl champions and were able to collect their “hardware” as the players were presented with their championship rings. On the field in Week 6 of the season receiver Terrel Jones made an incredible catch against the Valley Huskers on a tip on their last drive of the game. The bench and crowd erupted following their play of the year.
Hamilton Hurricanes: even before the team got on the field for the regular season the Hamilton Hurricanes’ players and coaches got an opportunity to stay overnight at Redeemer University in Ancaster Ontario which created a very strong team bond and gave them an identity coming out of training camp.
Winnipeg Rifles: this past season the Winnipeg Rifles made some huge strides with their play on the field. There was no bigger moment for them in 2022 then on August 28 when they hosted and finally beat the Saskatoon Hilltops 19-16. Quarterback Bryson McNeil completed 26 passes for 295 yards and set up kicker Donovan Downing to boot four fields, including two in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Their defence was outstanding and frustrated the Hilltops offence all afternoon.
Kamloops Broncos: on September 17th the Kamloops Broncos hammered the Prince George Kodiaks 47-17 recording their first home win of the season and showed the hometown faithful a glimpse of a very promising future. They were led by a pair of 17-year-olds on both sides of the ball. Defensive back Keagan Curtis finished with an impressive three interceptions while on the offensive side receiver Colton Meikle set a franchise record with 222 yards on five receptions and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Reid Vankoughnett had a career game accounting for six touchdowns, three rushing majors and three TD passes. The Broncos were able to carry that momentum into the following week when they beat the Kodiaks again for a two game winning streak.