Duncan Critch has a tattoo on his arm that says “Your life’s a Gamble, when you’re a Critch.” But there’s a difference between gambling and making a calculated risk and the high school senior did just that.
After moving to Grande Prairie to play with St. Joesph Catholic High School in the fall with his brother Connor, Duncan has now committed to the University of Alberta Golden Bears for the upcoming school year.
It means Critch’s football journey will advance to the U-Sport level – at a much shorter distance from home to boot.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders really,” Critch told Lakeland Connect.
“I think my dad was more excited than anybody because he was just happy I was going to get an education. And that’s the biggest goal is to get a good education, be ready for the future. Because athletics are amazing but they don’t last forever. You always have to have a plan.”
The Ardmore native made the difficult decision to leave home this summer and join a bigger football program to play amongst the top talent in the province.
“For what I needed and for what my future needed, I feel like I couldn’t have picked a better spot to refine myself and re-evaluate what I need in my life. I have amazing friends here, amazing coaching staff, people that I will never forget. I’m the happiest I’ve been here in my entire life. I couldn’t have been in a better environment,” said Critch.
The intensity level began early. Knowing they had a good group already and just a few days after their initial practices, the St. Joe’s Celtics took on Harry Ainlay, the top-ranked Tier I team in the province and beat them.
That preseason win was a lithmus test they passed.
With the goal of continual improvement throughout the season, they proved to themselves as well as their opponents, that they were capable of playing at a championship level.
Their regular season and playoff success parlayed their way into the Tier II Alberta Bowl final where Critch rushed for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns en route to the gold medal, which kept up Critch’s absurd 12 yards per carry average.
The sweetest part for the pair of brothers Duncan and Connor was to share the moment together.
“One of the biggest boxes was actually getting to play with my younger brother Connor. I remember when I first went to high school, my older brother Brody was graduating that year. And even though we didn’t win the league, we didn’t win our first playoff game, playing with him that last year was just the best I could have done for myself. I enjoyed it so much,” said Critch.
“So playing with him [Connor] having the opportunity to finish out the year that we did with him. I scored both my touchdowns behind him that day, both off the left side, both behind him and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation for myself.
“I think we broke three records that day or something, and none of us really cared about it. We were just happy that we got the gold medal for ourselves, for our town, for our coaches, for everybody who supported us going into that game. We’re just happy that all the hard work paid off in those 16 weeks we were playing.”
Duncan decided to keep his mind away from what the future may hold while the season was on, but once Provincials passed, his mind shifted to attaining an athletic scholarship.
On Jan. 11, the announcement was official from the school that Critch and four of his teammates were all committing to the U of A Golden Bears. So it wouldn’t be completely unfamiliar ground for the tailback, having built up a repertoire with the coaches at various summer and winter camps over the years.
“To have them with me on the journey is just going to make everything ten times easier and ten times more enjoyable,” he said.
“I’m very grateful for that. My recruiting experience was the best I could have had.”
Critch thanked several of his former Bonnyville Voyageur and Bandit coaches, family members, and friends for helping get to this point.
“I want to thank my mom, my dad, everybody who has supported me from Bonnyville from Grand Prairie. All my coaches, Coach Kevin [Sartain], Larry Godziuk, Trevor Pritchard, all my coaches here in Grand Prairie, all my former coaches and Bonnyville. Mickey Fagnan, my Bantam head coach, you can’t forget about him.
“But the two big people, my mom and my dad. For letting me move out of the house basically at 16 being by myself, to driving 14 hours here and there to every football game they can. I couldn’t ask for a better family. I couldn’t ask for a better situation for myself. And I just want to thank God for just letting me have this opportunity.”
And if ever Duncan forgets where he comes from, his tattoo on his arm will remind him. His older brother a Gamble, and he will willing to take the risk.
“It’s a play on words. Life’s a Gamble, when you’re a Critch. You’re gambling your life away because it’s so risky being a Critch.”