University of Regina Rams head coach Steve Bryce announced Monday the commitment of nine more players for the team’s 2017 recruiting class, including four from the CJFL, four from high school, and one transfer.
The four junior players include offensive lineman Michele Vecchio (Okanagan Sun), linebacker Cole Benkic (Saskatoon Hilltops), defensive back Taylor Mayer (Regina Thunder), and wide receiver Kasim Ocaya (Regina Thunder). Defensive back Chase Ellingson (Royal Imperial Collegiate), wide receiver Zachary Shalley (Sheldon-Williams Collegiate), running back Semba Mbasela (Dr. Martin LeBoldus HS), and offensive lineman Halem Hrizai (Murdoch MacKay Collegiate) join the Rams from the high school ranks. Defensive back Jack Louisdort joins the Rams after attending Concordia University in Montreal.
Michele Vecchio (OL • 6-1, 295 • 3rd • Kelowna, B.C. • Okanagan Sun)
Vecchio comes to the Rams after spending four seasons with Okanagan, earning CJFL All-Canadian status in two of those years. He attended training camp with the BC Lions in 2015 and went on to help the Sun to a British Columbia Football Conference title later that year. Vecchio, who will have three seasons of U SPORTS eligibility, attended Rutland Senior Secondary School in Kelowna before playing with the Sun. He will reunite with current Rams offensive lineman Andrew Becker at the U of R, as the two played together for the Rutland Voodoo back in 2012.
Cole Benkic (LB • 6-1, 215 • 4th • Saskatoon, Sask. • Saskatoon Hilltops)
Though Benkic (pictured) missed last year due to injury, he has been a huge part of the success of the Saskatoon Hilltops over the past half decade as he won Prairie Football Conference and CJFL championships with the Hilltops in 2012, 2014, and 2015. His finest season came in 2015, being named the Prairie Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year and earning CJFL All-Canadian honours after registering 19 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, three interceptions including a pick six, three pass breakups, and a pair of fumble recoveries. Benkic will have two seasons of U SPORTS eligibility.
Chase Ellingson (DB • 6-0, 180 • 1st • Swan River, Man. • Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada)
Originally from Swan River in western Manitoba, Ellingson is a highly regarded defensive back that comes to the Rams from Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada in St. Catharines, Ont. after spending his Grade 11 season with Canada Prep Academy in Welland, Ont. He twice competed for Team Manitoba at the U18 level, playing in the Football Canada Cup in both the 2015 and 2016 edition of the tournaments. Ellingson plans to enroll in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Health Studies at the U of R.
Taylor Mayer (DB • 5-9, 170 • 2nd • Regina, Sask. • Regina Thunder)
Mayer comes to Rams after playing three seasons with the Regina Thunder, earning PFC all-star honours in both 2015 and 2016. He also was named a CJFL All-Canadian last season after leading the league with a total of five interceptions. Mayer, a graduate of Winston Knoll Collegiate in Regina, had a total of eight career interceptions for the Thunder. Mayer has four seasons of U SPORTS eligibility and will pursue a degree through the Department of Justice Studies at the U of R.
Zachary Shalley (SB • 6-2, 190 • 1st • Regina, Sask. • Sheldon-Williams Collegiate)
Shalley put up huge numbers with Sheldon-Williams Collegiate last fall, catching 37 passes for 667 yards and nine touchdowns in just six regular season games for the Spartans to lead the Stewart Conference in all three categories. Also an accomplished hoopster at Sheldon, Shalley played basketball for Team Saskatchewan in each of the past four summers including at the 2015 Canada Summer Games in Alberta. Shalley, who has been accepted into the Faculty of Business Administration at the U of R, will join defensive back Dilan Elgert and quarterback Ellis Richards on the list of Sheldon alumni on next year’s Rams roster.
Semba Mbasela (RB • 5-9, 160 • 1st • Regina, Sask. • Dr. Martin LeBoldus HS)
A graduate of the LeBoldus program that has now won five consecutive provincial championships, Mbasela was third in the city in rushing last season with 74 carries for 599 yards and four touchdowns for the Golden Suns. He also had nine catches for 94 yards and a major, helping LeBoldus to an undefeated season last fall. As a Grade 11, Mbasela was named the Schwann Conference Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for over 1000 yards and running for 12 touchdowns in six regular season games for LeBoldus. At the provincial level, Mbasela was named to Team Saskatchewan for the 2016 Football Canada Cup but wasn’t able to participate due to an injury.
Jack Louisdort (DB • 5-10, 175 • 4th • Naples, Fla. • Concordia University)
Originally from southern Florida, Louisdort played for Naples High School before continuing his career at the junior level in Quebec with the St. Leonard Cougars and the St-Lazare Stallions. He attended Concordia during the 2015-16 academic year before transferring to the U of R in January, and is already taking classes in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Health Studies.
Kasim Ocaya (SB • 5-10, 175 • 4th • Regina, Sask. • Regina Thunder)
Ocaya played five full seasons for the Regina Thunder, helping the program to its first CJFL championship as a second-year player during the 2013 campaign. He was the team’s top receiver last season, pacing the Thunder in receptions (25), receiving yards (443), and touchdown catches (5). Ocaya also earned PFC all-star honours in 2015 after collecting 25 catches, 443 receiving yards, and five touchdown catches for the Thunder.
Halem Hrizai (OL • 6-3, 255 • 1st • Winnipeg, Man. • Murdoch MacKay Collegiate)
Hrizai comes to the Rams from Murdoch MacKay Collegiate, where he lined up at right tackle, at fullback, and on the defensive line as a versatile player for the Clansmen. Hrizai also gained experience at the provincial level last summer, being named to Team Manitoba and participating in the 2016 Football Canada Cup. He plans to enroll in the Faculty of Education at the U of R.
The addition of these nine commits gives the Rams a total of 39 incoming players for the 2017 season. That also includes Polis Koko and Ryan Warner, who both played for the Rams previously before heading crosstown to play in the CJFL with the Regina Thunder. That number also includes Layne Hull, who will join the Rams after being introduced as a U of R commit last season but ended up finishing off his junior career with Okanagan. The Rams are in preparation for their annual spring camp, which begins this Friday, Apr. 28 and runs through to Monday, May 1 at Leibel Field.