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Gridiron field trip

Local high school teams off to Big Apple and Hawaii to soak up the sights and play some football

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Bulldogs coach Tom Walls (in white) will take his Churchill crew to New York for a series of pre-season games against American opponents.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Bulldogs coach Tom Walls (in white) will take his Churchill crew to New York for a series of pre-season games against American opponents. Photo Store

Some will take in the hustle and bustle of the big city, while others will soak up the sun in tropical paradise. But no matter where they are, these high school football athletes are excited to be representing Winnipeg on an international stage.

The Churchill Bulldogs will head to the Big Apple and play some exhibition games in the surrounding area while the Vincent Massey Trojans are heading to Hawaii to play in a game to be televised online.

Bulldogs coach Tom Walls is originally from New York. He taught and coached in the area for 13 years before marrying a Canadian woman from Oakbank and moving to the Canadian Prairies. After leaving New York, he kept in contact with his old colleagues and it led to a discussion about bringing the Bulldogs to New York state for some exhibition games.

"There were emails and text messages that were jokes and jokes become thoughts, which turned into brainstorming sessions, which eventually became plans," Walls said. "This was the year we decided to put both of our feet in and see if we can make it happen."

And it sure did.

Walls and the Bulldogs leave for New York City on Aug. 28, will tour the area and take in some NFL pre-season action between the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. After, they'll head to Walls' old school in Vestal and prepare for a game in a stadium that Walls describes as "straight out of the movies."

"The stadium hosts a couple thousand people, Astroturf, bright lights and the whole package," he said.

The Bulldogs will play three other exhibition games on their trip, including a match against four-time state champion Chenango Forks.

Walls is looking forward to returning to New York for a while, but the main goal is to give his players the experience of a lifetime.

"I hope they're going to get that feeling of not only being able to represent their school, but their country on a foreign soil. And on top of that I think what they're going to find out is that football players have more in common than they do differences," Walls said.

The Vincent Massey Trojans have decided to fly west and take in the sun of Hawaii.

Trojans coach Kelsey McKay, who used to coach the Bulldogs football program, tries to plan a big trip for his team once every two years. Last time, he took his team to Los Angeles.

McKay sent out some calls and emails to high schools in the Aloha State, including to former Blue Bomber Joe Lobendahn's brother who is a football coach. Eventually the Trojans were set up to play Leilefehua in a broadcasted game complete with commentators and sideline reporting.

During their time away from the football field, McKay will have his team taking in surf lessons, swimming, tours and even some practices on the beach.

The trip is something McKay thinks the players will remember for the rest of their lives. But big trips like this come from a lot of hard work from other people. McKay wants his roster to remember that as a valuable life skill.

"The trip is part of the package for the team, but this isn't just about the trip," McKay said. "Lots of people, whether it be parents, people in the community, the coaches and the kids themselves have put a lot into this to get them there. I want them to truly appreciate the effort a lot of people did to get them there and experience something like Hawaii."

McKay's goal is to give the athletes a lifetime experience in hopes that when they become prominent members of the community, they will do their part to help give the next generation of football stars the same opportunities they had.

The Trojans' trip, which runs from Aug. 25-Sept. 2, will also feature a trip to see the USC Trojans take on the University of Hawaii in a college football game.

kyle.jahns@freepress.mb.ca

high schoolers prepping for season openers D4

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2013 D1

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