The Airdrie-Nanaimo football connection will continue this summer, after two more local players committed to play for the Vancouver Island (VI) Raiders junior football team.
Grade-12 players Tyler Ruck, from the Bert Church Chargers, and Charlie Simmons, from the W.H. Croxford Cavaliers, have committed to join the Raiders – a competitive U21 squad that competes in the British Columbia Football Conference (BCFC).
Simmons, a six-foot-three, 270-pound defensive lineman, will join fellow Cavaliers graduates Keagan Henderson, Nolan Phillips and Jamal Bacchus, who joined the Nanaimo-based squad last year. Croxford alumnus Blake Johnson, 21, also plays for the team.
“It’s going to be a good experience to go play out there, while learning and developing my skills,” said Simmons, adding conversations with his former Cavaliers teammates helped confirm his decision. “It’ll be amazing to go out there and play with the other kids from Airdrie.”
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Ruck, an 18-year-old linebacker who helped the Chargers to a top-four finish in the Tier II provincial championships last season, said he’s looking forward to testing his skills at a higher level.
“I’ve always wanted to play football after high school, so it’s awesome,” said Ruck, who will also study chemistry at Vancouver Island University. “I’m just excited to start playing.”
The BCFC season is currently in limbo, as the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a shutdown of virtually every sporting league in the country. The junior football season typically kicks off in the summer and runs through the fall, with games taking place from early August until late October.
Due to the pandemic, the league suspended operations March 19, preventing squads from practicing, working out and holding team functions. On March 31, BCFC president Tyler McLaren announced the halt in operations would continue until at least June 1.
“We are all optimistic that a season will take place in 2020, but at this time, we feel this is the best course of action to ensure the safety of our players, coaches, staff, fans and the communities we play out of,” he wrote.
Simmons and Ruck said they are still preparing for the likelihood the season will go ahead this summer, though they said nothing is set in stone.
“The coach told me, tentatively, they’ll be starting at the beginning of July, but that’s not guaranteed,” Ruck said. “We were supposed to have a mini-camp for all the recruits who are looking to come out, and they’d pick who they want from that, but it’s looking like they’ll just jump right into the main camp instead."
Without being able to workout in a gym, Simmons said he is lifting weights from home, while running and working on his footwork and handwork to keep in shape.
He added playing in a junior league will help him toward his goal of ultimately lining up for a university football team in the future.
“[Junior] is a step up from high school, and a completely different game, in a competitive sense, the way the game feels and plays out,” he said. “I’m hoping it can really help me develop more skills and fine-tune what I do as a player, to be able to develop and go to that next level.”