NAIG soccer awaits cousins

Joey Payeur

Lamar Lucas is spending this week on the same team as Santino Smith.
So he wasn’t getting baited into trash talking his relative when asked who was the better soccer player between the two of them.
“I don’t know . . I can’t do that,” Lucas, a 15-year-old Fort Frances resident, laughed about his 14-year-old cousin from Northwest Bay.
Both of them are part of Team Ontario’s U16 boys’ soccer team that is competing at the North American Indigenous Games, which run until Sunday.
The pair were invited to Kenora for a tryout in October in a group of 10 hopefuls looking to make it to the international amateur sports festival.
“I didn’t think I had a good tryout,” admitted Smith, a midfielder who graduated from Crossroads School in Devlin last month.
“I did not play as strong as I normally do so I was surprised when I made it.”
Lucas, meanwhile, had resigned himself to an unsuccessful fate even before the tryout.
“I didn’t think I would really make it through, so I was just going out there to have fun,” said Lucas, who made the team at the striker position.
“I was really happy I made it,” he added. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Smith’s mother, Cheryl Perrault, couldn’t hide her pride in her son’s accomplishment.
“When I got the phone call, I was trying to be composed,” she recalled. “But when I got off the phone, I was screaming and crying.
“My little boy was looking at me like I was crazy.”
Perrault is thrilled about the opportunity ahead for her son.
“It’s keeping him on the right track, which is extremely important,” she remarked.
“By him seeing the fundraising that shows him how much work is involved to get us there as a family,” Perrault added.
“We’re willing to support him so he’ll stay in school and stay out of trouble,” she noted.
“He’s the oldest in the house and he’s a role model to his four younger siblings.”
Smith believes he can keep up to the pace of the competition he will face at NAIG.
“I’ll be looking at the other players and try to learn from them to help my own game,” he said.
“It’s important to put in the hard work to get better,” he stressed.
“I plan to play a variety of sports at Fort High next year.”
For his part, Lucas said he doesn’t take lightly the honour of getting to represent First Nations’ people from this area.
“It means a lot to me,” he remarked.
“I want to learn about my culture and where I come from while also getting better by competing against players on other levels.”
Other district reps taking part in NAIG include:
•volleyball–Amy Wilson-Hands of Rainy River First Nations (U16 girls’ coach), Avery Wilson-Hands of RRFN and Sydney White of Whitefish Bay (U19 girls), Adyson Wilson-Hands of RRFN (U16 girls), and Brandon Geyshick of Whitefish Bay and Keenan Copenace of Onigaming (U19 boys);
•swimming–Ayiana Gagne (14-and-under) and Jacy Gagne of Lac Seul (16-and-under);
•athletics–Jared Hunter (RRFN);
•fastball–Shana Windigo of Red Gut First Nation (manager of all four Ontario teams), Rochelle Jack of Big Grassy (U16 girls), Austin Jack of Big Grassy (U19 boys), and Darryl Beacham and James Yerxa of Onigaming (U16 male);
•archery–Angel Medicine (RRFN) and Julianna Indian (RRFN).