Taking football talent south of the border

Hitting an opponent for the first time in almost two years was liberating for Dylan Simpson.

“The first game I actually hit somebody it was like, freeing” said the former Belle River High School student.

Simpson says he toyed with the idea of moving to the U.S. to play football but the current state of the region under pandemic restrictions made the decision easy. He felt he had no choice but to leave his friends and family behind.

“I’m learning how to read plays. I’m learning how to watch film. It’s all the little things that not a lot of people see that’s going to further my game so much more than just sitting at home going to school regularly and just working out in my basement.”

With no high school football in Windsor-Essex and aspirations to play post-secondary ball across the border, Simpson felt leaving was his only option.

He is attending Clearwater Academy in Florida and playing football in a state that has a much different approach to exiting the pandemic. “It’s like a whole different world almost in Florida. It’s like being back home before all this started,” he explains.

Simpson has already played one exhibition and three regular-season games and has accumulated an impressive highlight reel.

“We played a game in Deland, Florida last week and the stands were packed. No masks. No nothing. Wide open.”

Sonny Chantler, who left Herman to attend and play football at Buena High School in California, says a COVID positive test is treated differently. “You get COVID here, ok…you have COVID. Don’t come to school. See ya.”

Like Simpson, Chantler has goals to play post-secondary football at a high level either in the U.S. or back home in Canada and is glad he made the move.

“I’ll have some film to send out to coaches and on top of that working on getting my GPA pretty good this year, so I think it’ll all work out.

Chantler is practicing with his Bulldogs teammates but has yet to appear in a game. He has a couple of more weeks to go before he is eligible to play. He anticipates his first game action Oct. 1.

“Sitting out and watching games on the sidelines I’m there, taking mental reps but I’m just itching to get in.”

There is a price tag to this grade 12 experience for these student athletes. Dylan thanks his parents, “My mom and dad have always been my number one supporters.”

Chantler added, “Without them obviously this doesn’t happen and I’d still be in Windsor not participating in football at school. I’m blessed by them.”