Airdrie will continue to be well represented in British Columbia's junior football league this summer, thanks to the recent commitments of five senior Bert Church Chargers student-athletes.
On June 1 – a date known as 'national signing day' throughout Canadian football circles – five members of the Chargers' football team inked their letters of intent to join organizations from the B.C. Football Conference (BCFC). The seven-team division is comprised of competitive U21 squads that act as a launchpad to potentially join university or professional teams in the future.
The five Grade 12s included Ashton Jackson, and Kadin MacFadzen, offensive lineman; Ty Ochitwa and Aedan Thompson, defensive ends; and Charlie Wiersma, wide receiver. Jackson, MacFadzen, and Thompson inked their futures to the Vancouver Island Raiders of Nanaimo, while Ochitwa signed for the Westshore Rebels of Langford. Wiersma also signed for a B.C. team, but was unable to say which one it was as of the City View's press deadline.
Bert Church football coach Steve Larsen said it's a major achievement to see five graduating members of the school's football team continue their careers beyond the high-school level. He noted the Chargers fielded 20 seniors last season, which means a quarter of the team's departing players will move up a level this summer.
“I think it shows the amount of work these kids put in, especially considering they missed their Grade 10 year [due to COVID],” he said “I think it’s a testament to the work they put in to get to where they are.”
“All of us are really happy for them.”
The BCFC has become a popular destination for Airdrie's top football players in recent years. Other players from the city who plied their trade in the league in recent years are Tyler Ruck, Jamal Bacchus, Charlie Simmons, Keagan Henderson, and many others.
Larsen said the pipeline of players from Airdrie to B.C. is thanks to some of the local football coaches in town who have connections out in Canada's westernmost province.
“We like having our boys go out there – it works for us,” he said.
The three players who are joining the VI Raiders have already experienced a taste of what it's like to be on the team, as they recently returned from a brief preseason training camp in Nanaimo, alongside the Raiders' other recruits.
Though he's the only Charger to sign for Westshore, Ochtiwa, who was Bert Church's MVP during the 2022 season, said he's excited to continue progressing as a football player.
“I feel like it’s going to be a very good opportunity to advance my skills and become a better football player before I ultimately go to university,” he said on June 2, just before boarding a plane to Victoria for a brief training camp with his new team.
A relative latecomer to football, Ochitwa said he got into the sport in Grade 11, after previously competing in hockey and BMX. He said he quickly came to embrace the camaraderie and brotherhood that developed among him and his football teammates.
His Chargers teammate, MacFadzen, said he also likes the community aspect of football, though he acknowledged his favourite part of the sport is the physicality.
“Getting to hit people and winning games – there’s no better feeling,” he said.
MacFadzen differs from the other four Chargers graduats who inked their letters on June 1 in that he was the only senior player from Beiseker on the 2022 team. He said even though playing for Bert Church meant an extra hour of driving every day to make practices and games, the commitment was well worth it.
“Every day it’s a half-hour drive in and a half-hour drive out. It’s definitely tough, but I love football, so I’d make the drive no matter what,” the 17-year-old said.
The BCFC's 2023 season will get underway in July. For more info, visit bcfootballconference.com