McWhinnie headlines holiday recruiting class


Gary Jeffries knows this is an exciting time for Laurier football.

The head coach of the pigskin squad was able to rope in the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association (WCSSA) 2011 MVP defensive lineman Andrew McWhinnie, the first MVP to play locally after the previous three Doug Shuh award winners chose to head west down the 401 and suit up for the Western Mustangs.

The football program held two separate press conferences in December before the holiday break, with the first showcasing McWhinnie and the second being a little more intimate.

Family members from as far away as Victoria, BC gathered within the team’s locker room on Saturday, Dec. 17, and the team staff formally introduced themselves to their newest prized players and their kin.

Recruiting coordinator and smooth-talking funnyman Carl Zender introduced each of the 21 young men lining the front of the room, adorned in purple and gold t-shirts and sitting underneath holiday decorations while “Santa Coach” would later make an appearance (Zender in Kris Kringle gear) to pose for photographs for family members to take home.

Pizza, pop and coffee were also available on a day the football program spared no expense, and they’re hoping the holiday function becomes an annual tradition.

“I think it’s great,” said the headlining attraction McWhinnie. “It gets the family out and I think it’s the beginning of a really good tradition.”

Beyond the six-foot-four, 225- pound McWhinnie, Laurier’s newest group of Golden Hawks include highly-rated linebacker Zach Hoare from Cambridge, Craig Asiamah-Yeboah, a wide receiver from Brampton, Tyler Reeves, an offensive lineman from Burlington, who attended high school football powerhouse, Nelson, and wide receiver Thomas Stawiarski from Ancaster.

The most common reason given by the players in choosing Laurier was the small campus and friendly, family-like atmosphere.

“It’s a nice tight community here,” said Stawiarski. “I just love how walking from the field to class is not 20 minutes; you can walk throughout the whole school in seven minutes … everyone’s really welcoming.”

Stawiarski said his speed is the Ancaster native’s greatest asset.

“I’m a fast guy (with some good) hands,” said the wide receiver.

There were no quarterbacks at the meet and greet, but this group is only the start of an exciting year that will see more recruits signing letters of intent, said the team.

And players like McWhinnie are a huge part of that.

“I think [McWhinnie’s] signing will attract others and not just within the tri-cities but all around the country,” said Jeffries. “A lot of people know this young man, so I think good players attract other good players …. We’re reloading and he is a certainly a guy we can reload around.”

The complete list of recruited players include McWhinnie, Hoare, Stawiarski, Asiamah-Yeboah, Reeves, offensive linemen Jackson Yanchus, Edward Cadougan Jr., Marcus Nese, Jeff Vanier, Dylan Wenzel, linebackers Sam Montazeri, Tommy Majka, Dale Egan, Eric Juhl, Patrick Bishop, defensive linemen Joel Chapman, Michael Malanda, Mark Fidani, defensive backs Tanner Philp, Mike Solanki and running back Darian Waite.

The team may look drastically different than the one that suited up this season.

Gone will be kick returner and team MVP Dillon Heap, linebacker Sam Aird, defensive backs Shane Herbert and Luke Thompson, George Kourtesiotis and receiver Mark Surya.

The predicted No.2 overall CFL pick, Shamawd Chambers, has also likely departed the school and linemen Carlos Naranjo, Mitchell Bosch, Scott McCahill, Dan Bishop and running back Anton Bennett have one year of eligibility left to exercise.

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