NORTH VANCOUVER — Brian Brady saw the promise and set the timeline in his head as far back as the fall of 2014.
That’s when the head coach of the senior varsity at Carson Graham Secondary first ID’d the Grade 8 quarterbacks starting for both the Eagles and their crosstown rivals, the Handsworth Royals.
Brady figured right then and there, that by 2017, each would be starting for their respective senior varsity team as Grade 11s in the annual derby known as the Buchanan Bowl.
Like clockwork, that day arrives Saturday (1:30 p.m.), and after putting up big numbers through the air to begin the season, Charlie McMillan of the Eagles and the Royals’ Tate Williams are ready to ignite offensive fireworks when the traditional rivals square off at Carson Graham.
“It’s pretty cool because they have gone head-to-head since Grade 8, and you just knew it was going to be for the next five years,” Brady said on Monday before practice as his 2-0 team, coming off an impressive 49-25 win over Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks on Friday, prepared for one of the province’s most hotly contested rivalries. “I’ve had the opportunity (with Team B.C.) to work with Tate, and he’s a great young man. And we feel lucky to have Charlie, with all of his leadership and how he has taken ownership of our offence.”
The Royals enjoyed some success of their own Friday evening, as Williams passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns in a 15-13 win at Richmond against the host Hugh Boyd Trojans.
Richard White, coaching his first game at the helm of the Royals following the long tenure of Jay Prepchuk, also sees the qualities that both young pivots bring to the fore.
“From what I have seen, their quarterback does a very good job of dealing with pressure and he throws it incredibly well,” White said of McMillan. “And Tate, he is such a good athlete. He’s young but he’s learning and we’re all excited about his potential.”
Williams threw a 52-yard TD strike to Keelan White on Friday and an 11-yard strike to Ethan Moir. After that, however, Handsworth had to hunker down and hold off the Trojans.
White saw some good signs over that stretch.
“The thing that impressed me most (about Williams) was even though he would make a mistake, he was willing to try to jump in and improve on it. He didn’t get rattled and he didn’t feel insecure.”
Brady was observing similar intangibles on the other sideline in McMillan during his team’s win over Mouat.
“During the game, he was making the right reads and he was like a coach on the field, knowing what was expected for each passing concept,” said Brady of McMillan who passed for 269 yards and five touchdowns, bringing his total to 534 yards and seven TD passes in two games. “But the stuff I noticed most is when he wasn’t even on the field. It was his demeanor and his character in the pre-game, and his body posture when he was coming off the field. He’s improved. He’s positive and so great with all the guys on the sidelines.”
So despite the fact that there is still one more Buchanan Bowl in the Charlie vs. Tate era, expect a level of generalship not normally associated with Grade 11 signal callers come Saturday.
Both coaches know how special the moments could be.
“When I was coaching at Windsor two years ago, the kids would want time off to go to the game,” said White. “It’s not just a game for parents and players. It’s a game for the community, for all of the alumni.”
Adds Brady: “It may be an exhibition game, but it goes without saying how much it means to our programs. You can throw a stone and hit the Handsworth campus. It’s just a highway that divides us. And the kids from both teams have grown up together playing soccer, basketball and football in the GSL together. It’s a big game.”
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