ABBOTSFORD — When opposition coaches sit down in the film room to do their pre-game due diligence, they all arrive at a point where they see just how natural the kid wearing No. 3 for the Robert Bateman Timberwolves looks whether he’s commanding the huddle at quarterback or making a big play on defence from his spot at free safety.
“He just makes plays on both sides of the ball,” sums Wolves head coach David Mills when asked for his thoughts on Grade 11 standout Nolan Watrin, honoured this week as Varsity Letters’ B.C. High School Football Player of the Week.
Last Friday in AA No. 2 Bateman’s 41-8 win over Surrey’s visiting Holy Cross Crusaders, the 6-foot-1, 170 pound Watrin not only went 12-of-17 for 203 yards and four touchdowns, he also rushed for one score, and came through with an interception to go along with another three tackles on defence.
“We have quite a few good athletes on the team this year, but the thing that stands out to me most about our team is how hard we come to work in practice,” continued Watrin, who, in leading Bateman (5-1, 4-0 conference) into Friday massive showdown against the No. 1 Langley Thunderbirds (3-0, 3-0), sits not only first in AA with five interceptions from his safety spot, but also first in passing yardage (864 yards) and second in touchdown passes with 11, one behind West Vancouver’s Mathieu Theil.
“He’s made some good decisions and, not only has he been able to move the ball through the air to a great group of receivers, he can really use his legs, so he’s been important to our team’s success,” said Mills.
And the reason it all looks so natural to watch him do it? Watrin has grown up inside the game.
Besides the fact that his grandfather Ray Watrin, a Utah State grad, patrolled the offensive line for five different CFL teams (including the 1970 B.C. Lions) over a 12-year pro career, his dad Kevin Watrin coached the Mission Roadrunners to three B.C. AA Subway Bowl finals, winning it all in 2011.
Kevin Watrin, these days a principal in the Mission School District and Bateman offensive coordinator, was also a quarterback at both UBC and SFU. And Nolan’s mom, Michelle Watrin, is a former middle distance standout on the track during a Div. 1 collegiate career in the Big 10 at Purdue.
“She has been able to give me good running technique and when I used to run cross-country, she would coach me through that,” said Watrin of his mother, an 800m specialist during her days with the Boilers. “She taught me about running and my dad has given me a lot of advice about strategy.”
Add all of that up with the efforts Mills made to keep a semblance of normalcy during very trying times last season, and the Timberwolves have put themselves amongst the group of teams contending for the Subway Bowl AA crown.
Success on both sides of the ball, however, has brought some tough future decisions to the fore for Watrin, who will play his first football game as a 17-year-old when he takes on the Langley pass rush.
“I have been playing football since kindergarten, and whenever I’d do the pass, punt and kick (competitions), I was always able to throw it the furthest, so I thought I’d be a quarterback,” he adds.
Yet he’s had enough moments on defence to make him really ponder his football future.
“At the end of the summer I was 50/50 on ‘Do I want to play safety or quarterback?’” Watrin begins. “I went to an SFU (youth) camp as a defensive back, and I think I did pretty good at that, but I am still not 100 per cent decided. We will see.”
In the meantime, the biggest games of his season await, and not too many over the course of his high school career will meet that description better than this Saturday’s against the undefeated Langley Thunderbirds.
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