On Thursday, we introduced Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves as the No. 5 team as we opened our annual pre-season countdown of 2019’s top B.C. Double A high school football teams.
Today, we swing over to Vancouver Island for No. 4. The countdown resumes Monday, and will be followed by our B.C. Triple A Big 5.
PARKSVILLE — Study the way their past two seasons have ended, and you very quickly understand how battle-hardened the Ballenas Whalers have become.
In 2017, Parksville’s Whalers advanced all the way to Subway Bowl’s B.C. junior varsity Double A final, only to lose 36-6 to the Vernon Panthers on the grand stage at B.C. Place Stadium.
Last season, both the senior and junior varsity teams had their travel-challenged post-seasons end on the road over a three-day span, each falling in the quarterfinals to the eventual Subway Bowl B.C. champs.
Last Nov. 14, the JV’s were handed a 40-0 setback at Chilliwack’s Exhibition Park by a prodigiously-talented G.W. Graham Grizzlies team which would later score a record-setting 69 points in its provincial title win over Windsor.
Two days later, the senior team met it’s Waterloo, this time in Vernon, absorbing a 51-14 loss at the hands of a host Panthers team which would beat Robert Bateman by 35 points in its provincial title win two weeks later.
“Sometimes, the only way to win is to go through the losing experience,” explained Whalers’ associate head coach Jeremy Conn whose charges check in at preseason No. 4. “The hope is that they learn from it and that they are motivated by it.”
In the case of Ballenas, that clearly appears to be the case.
“We’ve had excellent participation in our off-season workouts,” said Conn, whose seniors open Week 1 play in Coquitlam this September by venturing out of conference against Triple A Centennial.
Ballenas opens Western Conference league play in Week 5, hosting Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs in the annual Border Battle.
A quick reference of last season’s derby clash, won 24-14 by John Barsby in Nanaimo, nonetheless showed just how good the Whalers’ then-Grade 10-11 talent was.
Rising senior quarterback Ben Chomolok threw for 291 yards in that game, while rising Grade 11 running back Demar Hohnstein not only carried 15 times for 104 yards, but also made seven tackles.
Chomolok and Hohnstein are two vital cogs in the 2019 plans of the Whalers.
“Ben’s football IQ has always been ahead of his peers, and he’s always been a cool customer,” Conn says of his QB-1, who has bulked up from the 175 pounds he carried last season on his 6-foot-1 frame. “Now, after physically developing, his body has caught up.”
The 2019 season, in essence, will be Chomolok’s third at the senior varsity level, considering he did double-duty in 2017 as a Grade 10, filling in with big team when it lost Grade 12 starter Ben Robinson to injury.
“He is a seasoned kid who we have high expectations of,” continued Conn, who co-coaches with head man Dan Smith. “He is very athletic. But even though he can run, he can also throw it anywhere on the field.”
The ability to bring a true run-throw dimension to the offence is completed by Hohnstein, whose attributes make him an all-in-one a thunder-and-lightning factor out of the backfield.
“He is a feature back that can do it all, a big kid with track-star speed,” Conn states of the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder who double as an impact player within the linebacking core. “He is bigger and stronger than ever.”
Joining him on defensive side of the ball in the same positional group will be Adrien Friesen, a rising senior who began 2018 as a running back, but who now projects as a tight end.
“We’ve still got him on our running back depth chart,” says Conn of Friesen, currently leading Whalers rugby team in tackles. “He could still play both positions. He’s a big, tall kid and a physical blocker. We needed a tight end and he came over and did a great job.”
Gage Geiger and Matt Muelleder, a pair of rising senior two-way linemen, who last season tipped the scales at a combined 550 pounds, will be big both figuratively and literally.
“With those two guys, both of whom are so committed and who have both gone to the off-season camps, you have the size you need right in the heart of the line,” Conn adds.
Key players rising from the JV ranks include running back/linebacker Jack Giroux and quarterback/receiver/linebacker Bruce McCabe.
McCabe, like Hohnstein, will be able to plug into multiple positions early in his senior career. Giroux is the same, potentially bringing a fullback-type presence to the backfield with the added ability to carry or catch.
“We’re looking to work hard to develop and teach the Whaler way,” says Conn.
Week 1 at Centennial
Week 2 vs. Belmont
Week 3 vs. Robert Bateman
Week 4 vs. Pitt Meadows
Week 5 vs. John Barsby*
Week 6 bye
Week 7 at Windsor*
Week 8 at Howe Sound*
Week 9 vs. Argyle*
(dates, times not yet full finalized, * indicates Eastern Conference league game)
(MONDAY — Meet B.C. Double A No. 3)
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