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GW Graham football stars join U Sports heavyweights

Gabe Olivares is joining a Canada West powerhouse while Ethan Mastin heads east to an Atlantic University Sport front-runner.
Last seen hurdling Seaquam Seahawk defenders in a BC High School Football playoff semi-final

Less than three weeks after their high school football season ended, GW Graham’s Gabe Olivares and Ethan Mastin have been snapped up by U Sports programs.

The Grizzly duo signed their letters of intent late last week.

Olivares, the reigning BC High School Offensive Player of the Year, will join the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds this fall.

“I went to UBC’s camp (in 2015) and won the top quarterback, then went back and did it again, and that’s when they started showing interest in me,” Olivares said.

UBC followed the QB through the high school season and into the playoffs, and didn’t wait long after GWG was sent packing by Seaquam.

Olivares had several school in pursuit with Simon Fraser making an offer that would have seen the teenager play NCAA division II football.

McGill, Western, Alberta and even some schools in the United States sniffed around, but in the end the Thunderbirds were the right fit.

“The culture and everything (UBC head) coach (Blake) Nill was saying brought me in,” Olivares said. “I met some of the players during a campus visit and they all respect him.”

“Even though he pushes them hard on the practice field they know they can trust him and he really loves to win and compete.”

“And the campus was beautiful.”

Nill didn’t offer Olivares any guarantees.

He joins a T-Bird team that won a Vanier Cup national championship just two years ago and while UBC slipped in 2016 (3-5), Nill’s track record of eight Vanier Cup appearances and three wins suggests the T-Birds should be perennial contenders

Olivares has been told he’ll compete to be the team’s backup QB. UBC’s roster shows four pivots in the mix and the ever-confident Olivares sees himself shooting up the depth chart.

“I'll be learning under the best quarterback in the country (UBC first stringer) Michael O'Connor,” he said. “I’ll show what I’ve got at spring camp, learn and develop with some of the best coaches in the country and when I get my chance I’ll take it.”

While Olivares chooses to stay close to home, Ethan Mastin is going as far away as he can while staying on the continent.

Mastin will play in Nova Scotia for the St. Francis Xavier X-Men. St. FX contacted Mastin a week after GWG’s playoff loss and wasted no time getting a commitment.

“Right off the bat I got the feeling that he (St. FX head coach Gary Waterman) cares for the players, but he’s also a competitive coach who wants to win,” Mastin said.

The New Brunswick based Mount Allison Mounties were also after the defensive back, giving him a choice between the top two teams in the Atlantic University Sport conference.

“They’re both great academic schools and great football programs, but being on the phone with the St. FX coach a few times, I got a feeling for the great opportunity that might be there,” Mastin said.

“He said that no matter where I go I’m going to find a way to succeed, but he told me I’d have a chance to come in (to St. FX) and compete for a spot on their travel team (second string) right away.”

Mastin and Olivares are the fourth and fifth players to make the jump from GWG to the U Sport ranks — six if you count Diego Pineda, who was heavily recruited but struggled to find the right fit.

Jake Creasey was the first, landing with the Manitoba Bisons.

Trevon Walsh went to the Alberta Golden Bears in 2014 and Emerson Smith followed him to Edmonton a year later.

Mastin is also the first five-year Grizzly to make the jump.

He started as a little Grade 8 kid, helped GWG win back to back junior varsity titles in 2013 and 2014 and helped the senior varsity team to provincial semi-finals the last two years.

As he leaves, he thinks the Grizzlies are in a good place.

“The high school bond with your teammates is unmatched, because you’re around your brothers every day,” Mastin said. “This is a fantastic school and a great football program  and we’ve been happy to put on a show for our fans and show them what GWG football is all about.”

Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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