Return policy: Let Jesse handle it

CORNWALL– He’s been Mr. Everything for the Cornwall Wildcats, and Jesse McPhail has a new job, too.

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He’s got some video work to do — and a good thing. Without the new hobby, McPhail won’t get a chance to play for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks university team in Waterloo.

McPhail last fall attended the university, but the football team has a no walk-on policy — coaches have to have seen film first.

“Yeah it was disappointing last year to not be able to try out,” said the speedy kickoff return specialist with Cornwall’s first-year club in the Ontario Varsity Football League.

“We’ll send them a tape of myself and hopefully I’ll get (an opportunity).”

The Golden Hawks have a strong program, but McPhail, of St. Andrews West, could fit in. Despite just two years of gridiron experience, with the Tagwi Warriors in Avonmore, he’s one of the region’s top prospects.

Until last week, McPhail was leading the OVFL in kickoff-return yardage, and he broke one for an 80-yard touchdown two weeks ago against the powerhouse Toronto Thunder.

McPhail returns kicks and punts, plays at the slotback position and, earlier in the year, handled Cornwall kickoff duties.

It’s the kickoff returns that get McPhail’s adrenalin going the most.

“It’s definitely my favourite part of the game, the most exciting part for me,” said McPhail, who last year was clocked at a quick 4.65 running the 40-yard-dash.

“I think I have some skill at reading the play (while running at top speed), and obviously the blocking is so good at this level. The blocking (on kickoff returns) has been excellent, I couldn’t do it without them.

“It’s fun to be a part of this, I’m loving it, it’s good competiton, and I think we’re doing pretty well for our first year.”

The 1-4 Wildcats will try to get their first on-field win Saturday at 4 p.m., when they host the Kingston Grenadiers.

McPhail, still just 19, and heading into his second year at Wilfrid Laurier where he majors in Geography and Geomatics, figures to be a key figure for the team as it enters what appears to be a late-season stretch of games in which Cornwall could pull out some victories. Kingston, Guelph and Ottawa Myers Riders remain on the schedule, and none of those teams are powerhouses.

“He’s had a great season so far,” Wildcats quarterbacks/ running backs/special teams coach Al Primeau said of McPhail.

‘He’s very versatile, with good speed and good strength. I think he’ll give himself an opportunity to go out there (and play at the Canadian university level). Hopefully he’ll get a shot when he goes back (to Laurier) in the fall.”

If there’s a drawback for McPhail, it’s his lack of football experience. But Primeau doesn’t think that’s a huge obstacle for him.

“The inexperience hurts him a bit, but he makes up for it with his athleticism,” the coach said.

By: Todd Hambleton

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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