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North Bay athlete gears up for Eastern Challenge Football Tournament

'I knew that I had a good chance at it because the coaches there were so supportive and they help you along. I didn’t know for sure but I had a good idea that I had a spot'
bullldogs will McCharles
Bulldogs tight end Will McCharles was the only Northern Ontario player selected to play for Team Ontario. Photo submitted.

The 2019 Under 16 Eastern Challenge in Football kicks off Monday in Kingston and will feature one local athlete on the Team Ontario roster. 15-year-old Will McCharles who plies his trade by terrorizing opposing defenses with the St Joseph Scollard Hall Bears and North Bay Bulldogs will be looking to make an impact when Ontario faces off against New Brunswick on July 9th. 

“It’s awesome,” Will said when asked what it was like to find out he had been selected to the team. 

“I remember that I was in science class and my Dad sent me a picture of the email saying ‘congratulations, you have been accepted to the team.’”

“Having Will picked for Team Ontario is a great opportunity for him as it is for any player that wants to play this game at the next level.” Eric Morgan, Will’s coach with SJSH and the Bulldogs said via email. 

“Being exposed to different coaches, drills and teammates will only make him a better player and teammate moving forward. The worst thing that will happen to Will by playing for Team Ontario, is to experience another level of competition and show him the kind of hard work that he will to put in if he decides that he wants to play this game at the University level.”

The selection to Team Ontario itself is no small feat, especially considering that Will only started playing Football in the last couple of years.

“I only started taking football seriously about three years ago and with how much I have improved in my game mentally and physically is just crazy,” McCharles said.

“I started coaching Will last summer with the Bulldogs Bantam program, he came in having never played football before but we could tell immediately he was going to pick it up and was a solid athlete having played so many years of hockey,” Morgan said, backing up young Will’s assessment of himself.

“Will’s progression and understanding of the game of football has grown by leaps and bounds, he works hard at every practice and asks a lot of questions to make sure he understands exactly what is required of his position and it shows on the field. He plays Tight End and has no problems blocking the biggest defenders or running across the middle to catch the ball. He has crisp route running and really good hands making him a favourite target of most quarterbacks.” 

Even more impressive is the fact that he was able to make such an impression on the Ontario coaching staff in only one try out due to prior hockey commitments. 

“I play hockey so I wasn’t able to make the first couple of tryouts but I was able to make it to the last one and luckily that was enough for me to make the team,” said McCharles, whose father played junior hockey.   

“I knew that I had a good chance at it because the coaches there were so supportive and they help you along. I didn’t know for sure but I had a good idea that I had a spot.”

Another way that he will most likely make a good impression with this tournament is Will talks very highly of his teammates and coaches with the Bulldogs and Bears.

“Each league and team has been terrific. My coaches and teammates have all helped me throughout my football career and they really know their stuff. That’s how I got here.” 

“Will is the type of player that all coaches like to have on the team. He is respectful to everyone around him. He takes what you say to him and tries to his best ability to implement it into his game, and if he doesn’t he comes back and asks questions to figure it out,” Coach Morgan said.

“He is helpful to other players by offering his advice to the younger players and if he knocks you down in the game, he is the first hand reaching out to pick you up. If Will is your teammate and you make a mistake, you will feel his pat on the back saying ‘that’s ok, we will get it on the next play.’ You can see the passion he has for the sport in practice and every game he plays, but he doesn’t use other players to prop himself up or make himself look good at their expense. He is a real teammate and pleasure to coach.”

As previously mentioned, Ontario’s first challenge will be against New Brunswick, and to play against players that you most likely haven’t played before is always a daunting task.

“I don’t know any of their skill level, I don’t know the team. I really haven’t seen them play before but after the first couple of snaps, I will get a hang of it,” McCharles said confidently.

They say there are no bad questions, but to this humble reporter, already knowing the answer, I had to ask. ‘Are you looking forward to the tournament?’ And after a good laugh, Will gave another confident answer. 

“I’m really excited about this. I have been working hard throughout the tryout and I am ready to take on the challenge.”

Most certainly family, friends, teammates, classmates, coaches, and of course his hometown of North Bay will be paying attention to number 86 when he heads down to Kingston and one can’t help but root for him.

The humble confidence he displays not only impressed me in our conversation, but will undoubtedly impress the Team Ontario brass, and that’s what matters.