5 Prince Albertans graduate to junior football

Carlton’s Jacques Lavoie (8) will join the CJFL’s Regina Thunder, while fellow senior Nolan Thorburn (17) will join the league’s Westshore Rebels in Victoria, B.C. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

2 St. Mary, 3 Carlton seniors to join CJFL teams in Saskatchewan, British Columbia

The call came a year early for St. Mary high school senior Bobo Kisusari.

The Marauders football player was called up by the Canadian Junior Football League’s Regina Thunder last year for the team’s indoor football camps.

“I went to all four camps, and they really liked me being there. They said they had a spot for me, but the thing is they didn’t know I was only in grade 11 at the time,” he said with a chuckle. “They told me to come back again this year, and I did. Sure enough they did have a spot for me and that happened.”

Kisusari is one of five P.A.-based high school seniors who will graduate and make the jump to the CJFL this summer.

Carlton Crusaders Jacques Lavoie and Kyle Wilson will join Kisusari in Regina.

Meanwhile, fellow Carlton student Nolan Thorburn will join the Westshore Rebels in Victoria, British Columbia, while St. Mary Marauder Hunter Boyer will play in the same conference, with the Vancouver Island Raiders.

Despite the somewhat divergent paths for the five players, they’ll all be joining CJFL teams with strong credentials.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers starting running back Andrew Harris is a graduate of the Raiders program, while current Saskatchewan Roughriders Dan Clark and Zack Evans are former Thunder members.

And the now-retired Rob Cote, the 11-year, workhouse fullback of the Calgary Stampeders, is a graduate of the Rebels program.

Looking ahead to his time with the Thunder, Kisusari said it feels exciting to “be able to find a team that fits perfectly with me and be around that family setting and a little bit of a competitive setting as well. (It) really brings out the more sportive nature in me, because I’m extremely competitive, and I really busted my butt this year, just so I could make the team.”

His goal is to be the best, and hopefully crack a CFL and – if his body holds up – an NFL roster, he said. Ideally, his home-province Roughriders are his first choice for a Canadian team; if he were to earn a spot with the Seattle Seahawks, that would be a dream come true, he added.

Lavoie and Wilson said they’re both happy to have Kisusari joining them on the Thunder roster, especially because they’ll be playing with him and not against him – the St. Mary Marauder will suit up as a roving dimeback, while Lavoie will be a tailback and Wilson a tackle on the offensive line.

“It’s exciting to show that coming from a small town, you can still follow your passion and your dream,” Lavoie said of making the CJFL team. He was the Crusaders starting quarterback this past football season.

He said that based on what he saw at the Thunder’s winter tryout camps, he expects the competition level to be considerably higher than what he’s seen at the high school football level.

“This means business. You’re working your hardest to play there, because everyone is a team there, and everyone’s fighting for that same goal.”

He agreed with Kisusari that the Thunder seems to have a tight-knit, family-like atmosphere, too.

Wilson added that a big motivator for him joining the team was Regina head coach Scott MacAulay.

“He’s a really respectable guy. He knows what he’s doing – that was my first impression. He’s really on the ball and knows how to run a team.”

As for Thorburn, the Crusaders safety said he did some research on the Rebels, prior to joining. He decided to commit to the Westshore squad after attending its spring camp earlier this month.

The team’s head coach, Charly Cardilicchia, “called me and told me a little bit about (the team), and I went out to meet him in Calgary … I went to the spring camp, and met the team and saw what kind of program they have, and I liked it.”

He added that he feels the team and its setting give him the best opportunity to push himself to be the best athlete that he can be.

The ideal scenario, Thorburn said, is for the Rebels to play against the Thunder (and his former Carlton teammates) in the CJFL championship final. “It would be a dream to play against them.”

Thinking about the crop of five players moving on to the CJFL, Carlton football coach Lindsay Strachan said it’s a good sign for players outside of larger cities like Regina and Saskatoon.

“There seems to be a pretty good relationship and conduit with the Thunder. I think number one, they’re a CJFL team in Saskatchewan that’s willing to take a good look at rural guys and maybe guys that play outside of the city.

“So there’s a lot of good opportunities for our kids there. That’s why we really encourage our kids to go down, and I admire what Scott’s done with his program since he’s taken over.”

Strachan added that “to have three or four guys year after year go down, I think P.A. has kind of made a name for itself in terms of the types of players we produce, and they’re definitely taking notice of that.”