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Bonk a fill-in at East-West Bowl

Ryan Pyette, Free Press Sports Reporter   2003-05-09 11:31:30  

WATERLOO -- Western football coach Larry Haylor finally found a way to stop Mike Bonk from hurting himself on the lacrosse floor.

Invite him to play in a football all-star game.

Bonk, a burly, third-year fullback and current captain of the London Blue Devils junior B lacrosse team, will be a last-minute fill-in for Guelph ball-carrier Chris Poynter, who is unable to play in tomorrow's inaugural Canadian university East-West Bowl at Waterloo's University Stadium.

"I guess they were left with only one fullback on the West team, and Larry called me Tuesday night to see if I could play," the six-foot, 235-pound Bonk said yesterday.

"Luckily my boss (at his summer landscaping job) gave me the week off. It should be fun."

The CCH grad played in the Blue Devils' losses on Sunday and Monday, then opted out of the team's trip to Sarnia on Wednesday to train in Waterloo.

The East-West Bowl, destined to become an annual event, is aimed at the top 84 Canadian university football players heading into their senior year. That gives Bonk, who will also be eligible next May, a shot at becoming the Bowl game's first two-time participant.

"He's a pretty good last-minute replacement," Haylor said. "He'll do just fine."

Bonk joins fellow Mustangs Chris Hessel (quarterback), Christian Heffernan (receiver) and Brian Wettlaufer (linebacker) on the West squad. Saskatchewan's Brian Towriss, whose Huskies lost to East coach Blake Nill's St. Mary's in last year's Vanier Cup , is coach.

Hessel, second in the country in passing yards last year, hopes to match up against East quarterback and Queen's rival Tommy Denison, who became the first pivot to top the 3,000-yard mark in a single season, knocked the Mustangs out of the playoffs and won the Hec Crighton national player-of-the-year award.

"We have already talked about (facing each other)," said Hessel, a 27-year-old Montcalm grad. "It's a lot of fun right now. All 84 of us are representing Canada, but on Saturday I think we could be in for a civil war."

Because the game is a partnership with NFL Canada, former NFL coach Sam Wyche will put in an appearance today. The ex-Cincinnati and Tampa Bay skipper replaces former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, who backed out at the last minute.

All 26 Canadian university teams have players in the game and most have sent a coach or representative to assist in preparation. Tomorrow's contest will be scouted by all nine CFL teams. Unfortunately, there is no TV deal in place. Event organizer Greg Marshall, the McMaster coach and former Western star, hopes football fans from London and Hamilton areas will make the trek. Admission is $10.

Haylor, who is helping out the West squad, said the Mustangs' lean running back situation has not changed and veteran Drew Soleyn is still a huge question mark.

"We don't expect him back, but that doesn't mean he definitely isn't coming back," Haylor said.

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