VANCOUVER — Last week, before each went to battle, they took the time to send the other an inspirational text.
It’s risky business to predict outcomes, especially at this time of the season.
Yet Kinsale Philip and Jevaun Jacobsen have been fast friends since the day they first met as 12-year-old junior bantam teammates, and as this tricky journey, otherwise known as the Subway Bowl playoffs, arrived at its Final Four stage last Saturday, both were struck with that innate feeling only close friends can share.
Something was telling them, from deep down inside, that for the first time in their young lives, they would wind up facing each other on the football field.
“I told him the day before that as long as he played his game, his team would win,” Jacobsen, the Grade 11 starting quarterback for Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens said of the message he sent to Philip, the Grade 11 starting quarterback for the No. 1-ranked New Westminster Hyacks.
Added Philip: “I texted him before their game to wish him luck, and to tell him how cool it would be to play against them in the final. After they won, I congratulated him.”
Terry Fox 28 St. Thomas More 21.
New Westminster 52 South Delta 45
As both camps hunkered down for the biggest practice week of their lives it came within a competitive atmosphere which reasonably makes each other the enemy.
Yet perhaps its most intriguing plot line to the biggest game of the B.C. high school football season — No. 1 New Westminster (11-1) vs. No. 7 Terry Fox (9-3), Saturday, 7 p,m., B.C. Place Stadium — is the fact that the game’s opposing starting quarterbacks not only attend each other’s family barbecues over the summer, even their moms are great friends.
THE DAY SUPER-HEROES MET
When Jevaun Jacobsen decided to move from his minor football team in Coquitlam, and attended his first practice with New Westminster’s Royal City program as a Grade 7, the first person he met was Kinsale Philip.
“It was an instant friendship,” remembers Philip. “Both families got along. And there was also the fact that we played the same position (quarterback) and we had the same body type.”
Adds Jacobsen: “We are both so competitive that in practice we would always push each other, get the other ready for any situation.”
On offence, Jacobsen would largely man the quarterback role. Philip also played some quarterback, but as the more physical of the pair, could line up as a bruising runner/blocker out of the backfield.
Of course, the evolution of both has seen them move to the senior varsity level, where each has become a heart-and-soul member of their respective team.
Jacobsen’s athletic fluidity is very apparent, and as it pertains to the senior varsity level, he has morphed into a mobile pivot with the ability to stretch the field with both his feet and his arm. He also lines up as a receiver, excels on return teams, and he looks after the back-end on defence as a hard-hitting, rangy safety.
Philip is a rare mix of athleticism and physicality.
Bulldog-like, he brings a power-running aspect to the deception-ridden wing-T offence run by the Hyacks, but he also has a cannon arm.
Add to that the fact that he mans one of the Hyacks’ inside linebacking spots, where he is constantly around the ball and delivering a most purposeful brand of hits.
Each will be playing at a level above when they return to the field next season as seniors, yet in the present, each has taken their play to championship-contending levels.
And one of the more remarkable aspects of the respect each has garnered is the reverence reserved for both by the opposing coaches in Saturday’s big game.
KINSALE PHILIP: ARMED WITH HEART AND SOUL
“Kinsale has very deceptive speed,” says Terry Fox head coach Martin McDonnell. “They don’t chuck it a lot at New Westminster in their Wing-T offence, but every time you see the Hyacks, Kinsale shows that he can really throw the ball, and they have good targets, too.
“He is a very good athlete,” McDonnell continues, “and I was so impressed with that watching him when he played 7-on-7.”
For the Hyacks, the 6-foot, 185-pound Philip has grown into a leader on the senior varsity level, and starting at the position last season as a 10th grader has only helped to usher in a player who speaks with a comfort and maturity about his place within the team.
“I kind of put it this way,” begins Philip. “We have so many weapons on our team that I honestly can’t tell you if we’re going to be a passing team or a running team from game to game.
“You can go from a game like we had against Vancouver College where I passed for three touchdowns, to a game like we had against South Delta where I had one or two pass attempts.”
Examine those words and you wouldn’t think they came from a Grade 11 quarterback because it all comes from such a selfless place.
Hyacks’ head coach Farhan Lalji appreciates the buy-in and knows he has his general, but also admits that because Philip breaks the program’s mold on so many different levels, and on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to keep him off the field.
“He is the best athlete we’ve had at the position,” Lalji says of Philip the quarterback. “He is just so much more physically bigger and he certainly has the strongest arm at the position.”
And while it might not be the preference of any coach to have a starting quarterback play such a physical role on the defence, it’s a tribute to Philip that his reps at linebacker are as plentiful as they are.
“The thing for us is that we knew Kinsale would have to play defence this year, but I was hoping at safety or at an outside ‘backer spot,” continued Lalji. “But both he and (running back) Sammy (Sidhu) make such a difference, you can’t take them out. It’s like (Steven) Moretto last year.”
The latter, of course, was in reference to the Notre Dame Jugglers’ 2016 senior quarterback who also played a huge role on the defence of a team which also advanced to the Subway Bowl final but lost to Terry Fox.
JEVAUN JACOBSEN: CAN’T FIND COMPARABLES
“Jevaun is the straw that stirs the drink for them,” Lalji says of Jacobsen and his role with the Ravens.
“He’s gotten bigger, thicker, and he is very fluid, especially when you watch how he changes direction on the run. He’s a classy kid who has his head screwed on the right way.”
A love of football runs in the family.
HIs father Mike has coached him, and his older brother Corey Mace, currently the Calgary Stampeders defensive line coach, enjoyed a playing career in both the NFL and CFL.
So too, it seems, does Jacobsen have an innate feel for the game.
In speaking with the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder this week, the author references a photograph he took of the player during Terry Fox’s quarterfinal win over Seaquam, in which he had the presence of mind to keep his knee off the ground and stretch for a three-yard touchdown.
Jacobsen’s thoughts: “I remember running down and getting tackled around the knees and I knew I was short. So I tried to keep my knee up, and I stretched for the end zone.”
It’s just one of the many highlight reel plays Jacobsen has made this season as a first-year senior varsity player.
Although he dressed late in Terry Fox’s 2016 campaign, this season he might lead the province in snap participation per game, despite a painful, nagging injury which has kept him from being at his best.
“He’s had some issues with turf toe and I did have to sit him out of one game,” McDonnell says of a win over Mission. “You should have seen the look on his face. It was absolute bewilderment. I asked him if it felt strange to not play, and he just said ‘Yeah’.”
McDonnell can’t find a comparable for Jacobsen’s 2017 role with the Ravens as a player, who with virtually no senior varsity experience, has come in as a Grade 11 and virtually never stepped off the turf.
Of course when you consider how many great players have passed through the program, that alone issues a rating number to Jacobsen which counts him beyond impactful.
“At this point, he’s exceeded expectations,” said McDonnell. “We saw what he could do at the JV level, but we didn’t dress him until the end of the season as a security blanket. We believe in him.”
HOW FRIENDS RESPECT EACH OTHER AND THE GAME
Lalji points out, as a precursor to Saturday’s game, that this Philip v. Jacobsen matchup has more substance than two close friends occupying the starting quarterback roles.
The fact that both play defence as well, means there is sure to be buddy-to-buddy contact, especially when Philip is manning a middle linebacker spot and Jacobsen is taking snaps at quarterback.
“There are going to be a lot of moments where he is going to have to tackle Jevaun,” Lalji says. “It’s going to happen a lot.”
Which brings us back to these two former Royal City Hyacks community football teammates, and this revelation from Philip.
“I have never played against Jevaun,” he says. “I think there might have been a scrimmage in JV. We’ve never gone head-to-head. So it’s going to be really cool.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
Close friends opposing each other in B.C.’s biggest high school football game of the year, yet neither has ever laid a meaningful hit on the other.
What’s that going to be like?
“The biggest thing is that we have a good relationship,” begins Philip.
“But we’re both so competitive that it’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” adds Jacobsen.
“When the play is going, I have no limit for the kind of contact I deliver,” says Philip. “I will hit him as hard as I can. But I will also help him up after the play and give him encouragement.”
Concludes Jacobsen: “I’ve got to agree with Kinsale. I will do whatever I have to do on the field. But I will always help him up, because he’s my buddy.”
Why is this game so great?
I think you have the answer.
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