London Beefeater gives up quarterback dream, now gives opponents nightmares

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All Spencer Bollman ever wanted was the football in his hands and the chance to make a difference late in a game.

That’s partly why he gravitated to the quarterback position.

But in two of the London Beefeaters’ first three contests this season, Bollman’s ability to make door-shutting interceptions — as a defensive back — have helped close out victories.

The latest, a last-second pick to protect the Beefs’ 33-30 last-minute comeback win over the Niagara Raiders in St. Catharines this past weekend, has propelled London to its best start (3-0) since its Ontario Football Conference title season of 2012.

“Defence is very new to me,” the 22-year-old former John Paul II pivot said, “but I’m having fun. It’s enjoyable. I saw the Niagara quarterback had some common tendencies and that gave me an idea what was going on. He threw the ball right to me. It was an identical play to our opener (against the GTA Grizzlies).

“Pretty sweet.”

Bollman, a Western student in his fourth year with the Beefs, showed up to training camp this summer prepared to take another crack at starting quarterback duties. But new head coach Chris Marshall wanted up-and-coming signal-caller Clarke McCallum to see some significant action.

“Coach said it would probably be best suited if I play receiver this year and possibly take some reps on defence,” Bollman said. “I’ve been pretty much exclusively receiver, but near the end of games, I’m in for more secondary (help) on passing situations. They’ve got me working in slowly, but after this, I think I will be playing a little more defence.”

McCallum has held up his end. He threw a 36-yard, final-minute strike to Kennedy Magee for the game-winning score. He has also put together some of the best passing numbers in the league.

“For an 18-year-old, he’s doing really well,” Marshall said.

The Beefs have already surpassed last year’s win total. They’re on the verge of locking up a playoff spot.

But they are about to wade through the thickest part of their schedule, starting with a tilt against their rival Windsor AKO Fratmen (3-1) Saturday, 7 p.m. at TD Stadium.

“I’ve played these guys seven or eight times (in his junior career),” Bollman said, “and only had success once or twice. But we’re coming in with high hopes and need to crack down this week. We’ve got a lot to prove yet. We’re not at the point we can call ourselves championship calibre.

“This is the week to show everyone that.”

And this is Bollman’s final season to make an impact at the national junior level. The OFC’s switch back to the Canadian Junior league’s old age ensures it.

“When I came in and the (OFC) age limit was 24 years old, I thought, great, I have six or seven years of this,” he said with a laugh, “and then in my third year, it went to 23, and now, it’s back to 22. So it’s been the worst for me.

“But if it wasn’t like this, we wouldn’t have the chance to play beyond the league or to face Calgary (in a regular season game) in three weeks. So this is a way better experience.”

The Beefs were taken aback by the tight battle against Niagara. They had defeated the Raiders 49-0 the previous week.

“Being 3-0 is nice, but the last game isn’t exactly what we wanted,” Bollman said. “We’re prepared. We’ve got a real young, knowledgeable coaching staff and feel like we’re taking a right step.

“No one is happy, but at the end of the day, we closed it out and a W is a W.”

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