VANCOUVER — Semifinal Saturday is now a wrap. Here are reports from all four games!
NEW WESTMINSTER 33 TERRY FOX 0
VANCOUVER — Last season, the New Westminster Hyacks booked their first-ever spot in the Subway Bowl B.C. senior AAA championship final the warm and fuzzy way.
Needing a stop on fourth-and-16 against the South Delta Sun Devils, Hyacks coach Clint Uttley had the team’s entire defensive unit meet together in a group hug before they went back out onto the field.
The very next week, the Hyacks parlayed that 52-45 win over South Delta into an eventual 15-14 B.C. title victory over the Terry Fox Ravens, which famously, was won on the final play of the season.
Work commitments didn’t make it possible for Hyacks head coach Farhan Lalji to be with his team for last season’s semifinal, yet something about Uttley’s approach that night stuck with him.
So in postgame aftermath of Saturday’s surprisingly decisive 33-0 win over the Ravens, when asked to address his team’s approach to a rematch that clearly carried a high degree of emotion for both teams, Lalji admitted it was all about tapping back into that group-hug mentality.
“We weren’t playing last year’s game again,” began Lalji who admitted he wasn’t sure the tact that the Ravens were taking.
“I said to our players before the game that hate is a fleeting emotion,” he continued, before later adding “so we’re going to play the game with love. I know that sounds corny, but last year, when I was away, Clint talked about it in the late stages of the game against South Delta.
“We said ‘That’s our hallmark,’” he continued. “So I said that we were going to play this game with love and just stay together the whole time, no matter what happens.”
Clearly, it put New Westminster in the right frame of mind.
Not only did it help the Hyacks build enough offensive momentum to give themselves a 17-0 halftime lead, it seemed to sweep through the team’s ranks with enough positive mojo that the defence did what few have done this season: Take the big-play potential out of the Ravens’ vaunted multi-pronged run game.
“We have lots of speed on defence,” Lalji said. “Shay Rathjen and Matt Lalim were two edge players who were doing a lot of good things. And (Grade 10 defensive tackle) Vishaan Narayan was a beast on defence.
“You know what you’re going to get from (QB/linebacker) Kinsale (Philip) and (lineman) Evan (Nolli),” Lalji added of two team stalwarts. “But it was the other guys who had to step up, and at this time of the year, if you’re not going to get that, then you’re not going to win.”
Broxx Comia’s 51-yard run to the Terry Fox 24-yard line at the end of the first quarter set up Philip’s 12-yard touchdown pass in the end zone to a wide-open Matthew Drake.
Later, Michael Kingsley’s 35-yard run set up a 17-yard Zach Northgraves field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Hyacks then recovered a Ravens’ fumble which led to a seven-yard Greyson Planinsic major and a 17-0 halftime lead.
Early in the second half, Philip looked to have turned a 10-yard run into a touchdown, however he fumbled the ball as he cross the plane of the goal line, and the ball was caught for a touchback by Terry Fox’s Jaden Severy.
Undaunted, New Westminster continued to surge, a 26-yard Lalim scoring catch making it 23-0 with 2:12 left in the third quarter, followed by a 35-yard pass-and-run score in the fourth quarter from Philip to Lalim for a 30-0 lead.
A Northgraves’ field goal rounded out the scoring.
It seems hard to believe, as the team prepares to meet Victori’s Mt. Douglas Rams in next Saturday’s Subway Bowl final, that the Hyacks closed out the regular season having lost three of their last four games, including a conference finale 34-28 setback to the Rams.
Especially since, in back-to-back playoff weeks, they’ve knocked off the preseason Nos. 1- and 2-ranked teams in Lord Tweedsmuir (34-16) and Terry Fox (33-0), teams that went a combined 17-3 heading before falling to New Westminster.
So what would Lalji have thought then, in the midst of his team’s late-season swoon, if he had been asked what might happen if those two teams were the ones standing in the way of a Hyacks’ return to the Subway Bowl final?
“That we would have won,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be this handily but I absolutely believed we could beat anybody out there. Before the quarterfinals, we had talked about how this really was a tournament. I really felt that if we played our game, we could beat anybody, but that anybody could beat us. We just had to be on.”
It goes without saying that New Westminster needs to be in that same ‘loving’ place next week against the Rams.
“The biggest thing I have admired about Mt. Doug is their ability to play their best football at the end of the season,” Lalji said. “It’s happened over and over. (Vancouver College) hammered them (55-26) and then tonight, (Mt. Douglas) won. (Vancouver College) did that before (in 2015) and then Mt. Douglas beat them in the championship. So I really admire that about their program,. And I am very proud of our kids. After a rough middle part of the season, we were able to do that as well. Stay together, become close and just work it out.”
MT. DOUGLAS 31 VANCOUVER COLLEGE 28
VANCOUVER — The Mt. Douglas Rams spent what seemed like an eternity during the fourth quarter on Saturday night, trying to keep their figurative heads above water, hemmed in on the shadow of their own goal-line by the Vancouver College Fighting Irish.
At their lowest ebb, they seemed to have lost their way, taking countless penalties and facing a fourth-and-33 at their own 14-yard line.
It took the Rams over eight-minutes of fourth-quarter game clock just to get out their pickle, but once they did, they seemed have some destiny on their side.
A game-winning drive that culminated with a 27-yard walk-off field goal by junior varsity kicker Jackson Reid carried the Rams to a stunning 31-28 win over the previously-undefeated Vancouver College Fighting Irish in the Subway Bowl semifinals at B.C. Place Stadium. The victory moves the Rams into next week’s title game for the first time since 2015, when a then-ninth grade quarterback named Gideone Kremler led them to a 34-17 win over the Irish.
“We’ve been here before,” said Kremler after leading his team down the field to set up the winning field goal. “We have been in the dome before and we know what it takes. We came to dominate, and we took down a giant of a team in VC. We still have one more to win, but I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”
The Rams had looked ready to run away with things early in the third quarter when Kremler delivered a 45-yard touchdown pass to Sebastian Hansen for a 21-6 lead.
The Irish, however, regrouped and played their best stretch of the game, cutting the lead to 21-13 after a 14-yard scoring run by Basil Schincariol.
The dynamic Hansen, however, got that one right back for the Rams, taking a handoff in the backfield and gaining the edge for a 28-13 lead.
Plucky Vancouver College, however, just kept coming.
First it was quarterback Eric Zychlinski throwing an eight-yard TD strike to receiver Bruce Spathis to make it 28-20 with 11:50 remaining.
Then, after hemming the Rams deep, they appeared ready to potentially tie the game, however they fumbled alway the ball to Mt. Douglas on second-and-goal at the one-yard line.
The Rams, however, were having no part of taking a safety to ease their situation
Instead, they went three-and-out and then shanked a fourth-quarter punt, which eventually led to Zychlinski tying the game 28-28 when he threw a 12-yard fade in the end zone to Owen Ker, then ran in the ensuing two-point convert.
The extended Vancouver College possessions, however, took so much time off the clock, that when the Rams took over with about 2:30 remaining, they held the game’s destiny in their own hands.
Mt. Douglas got a big break on a pass interference call on an uncatchable pass which moved the ball the Irish 49. From there, Kremler’s 28-yard completion to Hansen moved the ball to the Irish 23.
One first down later, the clocked ticked down to three seconds before Reid stepped up and booted the winning field goal.
“It was great perseverance by our guys to put that winning drive together because Vancouver College had all that momentum in coming back,” said Rams’ head coach Mark Townsend.
The coach then paused to consider how clutch his Grade 10 kicker Reid was in the moment.
“Jackson is a JV player and we didn’t know if he was going to be available for us today,” said Townsend of Reid, who was hurt in the team’s most recent junior game. “From not even knowing before kickoff how he was going to perform, to nailing all those converts, and then on a huge stage here at B.C. Place Stadium? For a Grade 10 to have the mental fortitude and toughness to go out and nail that field goal, you have to be so proud.”
Kremler, who has enjoyed such great success this season with brother Zairech Kremler, the team’s leading tackler and rusher, tipped his hat to the Irish.
“They are one of the best coached teams I’ve seen in the four years that I have played senior varsity football,” he said. “They play like a brotherhood across the board, everyone trusting each other. But sometimes I feel it comes down to heart and I feel like that’s what we showed tonight.”
To be able to finish his high school career after battling a spate of injuries the past few seasons, Kremler admitted the 2018 Subway Bowl playoffs have come with an entirely different level of appreciation.
“It’s a little surreal every time you walk into this dome and see all the lights,” he said. “But experience is also a big part of it. Now, I couldn’t be happier to come back one more time next Saturday.”
Kremler showed that giddy-up on the Rams’ first offensive play from scrimmage, breaking off a 39-yard run to the Mt. Douglas 45-yard line.
The drive looked set to yield points, however a misplayed hand-off killed the drive after a fumble was recovered at the Irish nine-yard line by Vancouver College’s Colin Dolynski.
The Irish would open the scoring on the first play of the second quarter on a 35-yard run by Jason Soriano. The extra point, however, clanged off the post for a 6-0 lead.
Mt. Douglas rallied, continuing to rely on the scrambling ability of its quarterback Kremler.
This time, the senior ripped off a 48-yard run to the Vancouver College 39-yard line with six minutes left in the half.
Later in the drive, on second-and-nine, the Rams executed the same reverse hand-off, this time seamlessly, and Hansen found the middle wide open, rushing up the gut for a 17-yard major. The PAT sailed through for a 7-6 lead.
Clutch defence then allowed the Rams to build on their lead.
Dante Carbone intercepted Zychlinski at his own 48-yard line, and returned it to the Irish 37. That led to a nine-yard Kremler touchdown run off a picture-perfect play fake. The PAT gave the Rams a 14-6 lead with 1:59 left in the half.
Vancouver College threatened before the break, getting the ball to the shadow of the Rams’ goal line.
However a huge tackle by Mt. Doug’s Aiden Bertuzzi on Zychlinski with two seconds left prevented a touchdown.
Then, Joe Lucas of the Rams, in man-to-man coverage against the Irish’s Ker, knocked a Zychlinski pass out of the reach of the Irish receiver at the back of the end zone on the final play of the half.
VERNON 44 JOHN BARSBY 0
VANCOUVER — VANCOUVER — The Vernon Panthers have been the big kids on the B.C. Double A football block all season long, and even though they didn’t have a battle-tested conference slate to get them ready for the post-season, they looked every bit the part of champions on Saturday.
Led by the powerhouse running and three touchdowns of Charles Lemay and the leadership of quarterback Thomas Hyett who threw for three more scores, the Panthers rolled to a decisive 44-0 win over Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs in the Subway Bowl semifinals at B.C. Place Stadium.
The win sets up a championship final between a pair of first-timers when the Panthers face Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves in next Saturday’s title tilt.
“We can always get a little worried about our weaker schedule,” said Hyett, whose team won each of its Interior Conference games by at least 37 points and allowed just one touchdown in the process. “But we played Terry Fox as well, and in a game like that, they bring you back down to earth so your ego’s not so big. That game helped remind us that you have to forget your last play if you’re going to be successful.”
The game Hyett referenced, a 50-7 non-conference loss to the AAA power Ravens in PoCo back on Sept. 15, had its intended effect.
Saturday’s victory, the team’s eighth straight since, was the perfect example of a team, facing its toughest foe since Terry Fox, never looking up the scoreboard and starting from scratch after every snap.
The Panthers got on the board quickly on Saturday.
Running back Lemay found the end zone with a 10-yard scoring run for a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, receiver Caden Danbrook caught fire, hauling in an 11-yard scoring strike six seconds into the frame from Hyett, then turning a short swing pass from his pivot into a 57-yard touchdown.
Two minutes before the half, Liam Reid booted a 25-yard field goal for a 24-0 lead.
The Panthers’ Zack Smith capped an explosive first half when he returned an interception 40 yards, then caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hyett to make it 31-0 at the half.
In the second half, Lemay added two more majors, one off a 10-yard run and the other off a nine-yard screen pass from Hyett.
And while there is no question the victory was decisive, head coach Smith admitted the process of getting to the final was by no means easy, and that that was a credit to the excellence established within the tier over the past decade by John Barsby head coach Rob Stevenson.
“I’ll tell you what, Barsby is what keeps me up at night,” said Smith. “Barsby is what gets me up at 5 in the morning after a sleepless night. It can be noon on a July 15th day and I’m at my cabin, and I am thinking about them. It’s a lot of respect for them because they are the guys that, each year, we know we have to beat if we want to get anywhere. We keep them up at night, they keep us up and night and we make each other better. I’m sure in the future they are going to get back at us.”
ROBERT BATEMAN 49 HOLY CROSS 0
VANCOUVER — Sam Davenport is a pretty humble and soft-spoken kid off the field, yet it’s hard to remember a louder and more definitive performance in the recent history of the Subway Bowl playoffs.
The senior receiver/defensive back/kicker scored four touchdowns, including at least one in all three phases of play, to go along with two interceptions and a tidy 6-of-7 PAT performance, as the Wolves rolled to a second-consecutive post-season shutout.
“He just seems to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time,” said Bateman head coach David Mills, who will lead the Wolves into their first-ever Subway Bowl final this coming Saturday against either Vernon or John Barsby.
Much the same could be said for virtually everything Bateman did on Saturday.
Davenport got the party started by returning the game’s opening kick-off 84 yards for a touchdown.
Just 14 seconds in, his PAT made it 7-0 and the Wolves’ most dominant win of the season was underway.
“We were ready,” said Davenport. “The whole week the coaches were preparing us and we were ready because we wanted to go the finals and now are. We’re going in (next week) expecting to win.”
By the time running back Phoenix Moller spun off a would-be Crusaders’ tackler on his way to a 15-yard touchdown with 2:01 left to the half, the Wolves were leading 35-0.
The damage in between?
Andres Guzman carried for a 15-yard major with 58 seconds left in the first quarter; Davenport picked off Holy Cross quarterback Andrew Hunt, then later caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Logan McDonald with 5:41 left in the half; and then just over a minute later, Moller caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from McDonald for a 27-0 lead.
Moller’s rushing major just before the half was set up by Ryan Sztuhar’s fumble recovery at the Holy Cross 20-yard line.
McDonald threw a two-point convert to Markus Rauch to cap the final scoring play of the first half.
In the second half, the magic just continued.
Davenport caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from McDonald with 34 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 42-0, then returned an interception 34 yards for a major just 1:25 into the fourth to make it 49-0.
Despite their dominance, Mills explained afterwards that it took a lot of urging from the coaching staff before the team realized just how talented they actually were.
“With these kids, we didn’t have to tone down their cockiness,” said Mills. “We almost had to convince them they were good, to get the to a point where they believed they could actually do it.”
Davenport was quick to credit the hogs up front for his success.
“I was just the one scoring the points,” he said. “The line made it possible and Logan can always find me.”
Afterwards, Mills could only shake his head as the momentum has continued to build from week to week.
When does Mills think the Wolves caught fire?
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It might have been that close win (28-27) over G.W. Graham (Oct. 12). “It just took off from there.”
That victory signalled the start of a win streak that has now reached five games and counting with just one more game remaining.
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