Four of the finest football players from Carlton Comprehensive High School are getting the opportunity of a lifetime at the fourth annual 6 Nations Challenge this week in Brandon.
© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Carlton Crusaders quarterback Jullian Bird throws a pass in practice last September at Max Clunie Field. Bird will be attending the 6 Nations Cup with Team Saskatchewan in Brandon all this week.
The 6 Nations Challenge is aimed at player development as well as increasing participation among Aboriginal players across Canada.
In 2013 the event returned to Western Canada for the first time since its 2010 inauguration in Saskatoon.
On Wednesday, teams will compete in shootout scrimmages in which teams receive a series of 10 plays beginning at their opponents’ 45-yard line.
“It’s an opportunity for First Nations and Metis athletes to showcase their talents at a national level,” Team Saskatchewan head coach Justin Pooyak said.
“It’s also an opportunity to get football into a lot of smaller First Nations communities that might not have enough players for a 12-man team.”
Jullian Bird, Brennan Chalmers, Mathew Lavallie and Peyton Cyr join 71 other 6-A-Side tackle football players from Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan for the football festivities being held Aug. 11-17 at Brandon University in Manitoba.
Bird, who led the Crusaders last year with more than 1,200 passing yards, said this experience has opened his eyes to future possibilities in the sport.
“It’s got my hopes up high for the future,” Bird said. “My dream is to one-day play quarterback for the Saskatchewan Huskies.”
Bird will be going into Grade 12 in the fall and look to lead the Crusaders into the playoffs next year as quarterback.
Defensive back Chalmers is a kid who coaches say “absolutely loves football.” Football for him is more than just a sport; it’s a life-changing decision.
“I’d probably be down a completely different path if I didn’t play football,” Chalmers said. “I find football makes everything in my life better.”
After he received his acceptance letter to the 6 Nations Challenge, Chalmers started working his strength and conditioning at the Alfred Jenkins Field House.
“I want to try and make my family proud, and not just be another stereotypical native kid.”
Lavallie will be heading into Grade 11 at Carlton come September, and he said he look forward to being a leader on the offensive line this year. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Lavallie is not the biggest lineman out there, but he has learned at the 6 Nations Challenge to use his speed and athleticism to his advantage.
“We’ve been working on pushing off their chest plates, and making it uncomfortable for them, so they fall back,” Lavallie said.
Cyr is the youngest member of the Crusader squad in Brandon, but what he lacks in age, he makes up for in experience.
“I’ve been playing football for seven years now, and it was a real honour to get selected to come to represent Saskatchewan here in Brandon,” Cyr said.
Cyr will be starting his high school career next fall at Carlton as he heads into Grade 9, and coaches say he has a chance of making the senior team this year.
“He’s an excellent athlete, and we’re excited he’ll be around our program for the next four years,” Carlton Crusader football head coach Rylan Michalchuk said.
To cap off the week, participants will face off in a series of mini-games on Saturday, August 17.