The East-West Bowl is first and foremost an all-star game. While it serves as a means of getting various Canadian football faculties together and allows those who might not be CFL caliber players a developmental opportunity, it is at it’s core a chance to have the best players in Canada competing against each other.
If players performed well this week they can create buzz which leads to a big fourth year season in the fall, a CFL combine invite and maybe even a call from a CFL team during the draft next May.
With that chain of events in mind let’s look at who helped themselves the most this week.
Lautaro Frecha – DB – Waterloo Warriors
Sometimes it’s really difficult to stand out in a football game full of all-stars. In order to do so at a position that doesn’t touch the ball makes that even more difficult. Waterloo defensive back Lautaro Frecha made a tackle Saturday in the open field with such violence and precision it had coaches on both sidelines applauding. He also battled – successfully – on special teams for much of the afternoon.
Alexandre Savard – REC – Laval Rouge Et Or
Savard is an NFL style tight end who admits he needs to work on blocking skills to get that chance but his is an absolute specimen with great hands which showed through several times in Quebec City.
The best practice rep of the week saw Savard get a jet sweep handoff before turning the corner with speed uncommon to a man of his stature. To top things off on the rep he combined that unique speed with brute strength by running through an arm tackle like it never existed all the way to the end zone.
Mathieu Betts – DE – Laval Rouge Et Or
Betts is an absolute monster. He’s got the body type and burst to be a first round draft pick with possible NFL mini-camp opportunities. Everyone who went to Quebec City already knew his resume but Betts impressed by showing his trademark energy and pass rushing repertoire instead of resting on his previous accomplishments.
Make no mistake, Mathieu Betts was the most impressive player at the 2018 East-West Bowl.
Mathieu Betts enters the field of play during player intros of last weekès East West Bowl in Quebec City (Mathieu Bélanger/Laval).
Jimmie Cunningham – DL – St.FX X-Men
At just under 6’1, 291 pounds this AUS product is a load on the interior with a good burst off the ball and the ability to anchor even against a double team. In a ‘thud’ period at team East practice Thursday Cunningham unintentionally blew up a play by sheer force dropping the running back behind the line after beating the offensive lineman in front of him as if he were an underweight receiver.
Jesse Gibbon – OL – Waterloo Warriors
Gibbon had the distinct pleasure of trying to deal with Laval’s Mathieu Betts throughout the game and with the guidance of Waterloo Head Coach Chris Bertoia he more than held his own. Each drive coming off the field Bertoia would ask Gibbon to describe the reps he just took against Betts and while he might not have won every play against the dominant Laval pass rusher what impressed me was Gibbon’s ability to describe his mindset and approach on very rep.
He appears to be a very cerebral player with a good frame to develop should a CFL team take him next May.
Fraser Sopik – LB – Western Mustangs
Sopik is 2019’s Jordan Beaulieu. Beaulieu was a scrappy Western Mustangs defensive back who played with fantastic energy and was impressive enough in the winter of 2018 to garner a national combine invite from the regional level and was eventually drafted.
Sopik has that same battle mentality and energy. With some more size and experience he is a potential picture perfect backup linebacker who makes a living on special teams for as long as he would like.
Jamel Lyles – RB – Manitoba Bisons
While you might think he helped himself by scoring the game winning touchdown it was much more than that alone for there Bisons ball carrier. Several times in the game Saturday Lyles was asked to make up for a botched handoff, early snap or failed blocking scheme. Each time he showed elite elusiveness and leg drive.
Manitoba Bisons RB Jamel Lyles races for a first down in last weekend’s East West Bowl. Lyles had the game-winning major to give the West a 15-14 victory (Laval).
Kurleigh Gittens Jr. – REC – Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
Kurleigh has long been one of the most naturally talented and explosive young football players in this country dating back to his time with the Ontario Varsity Football League’s Ottawa Cumberland Panthers and beyond so the East-West Bowl setting was nothing new.
He excelled in the return game and has the type of frame that with good coaching – which he undoubtedly gets from Laurier’s Micheal Faulds and staff – Gittens Jr. is in a great position to make noise in the 2019 CFL combine and draft.
Malcolm Lee – DB – UBC Thunderbirds
Lee is almost 6’2, 197 pounds and has 33” long arms. He is comfortable in press coverage, could run with even the most explosive East-West Bowl receivers and has good ball skills on tape.
Think Dagogo Maxwell of UBC who was drafted this past May by the Calgary Stampeders.
Brian Hope – K/P – Saint Mary’s Huskies
Kickers and punters are people too!
Hope crushed kickoffs all week, was accurate in most field goal attempts through the week and sliced a PERFECT punt into the short corner in the games final minutes to give Team East a long field to drive. A well-rounded and effective performance.