SURREY — There was a rather revealing moment Friday in a game which pitted B.C.’s two highest-ranked football teams in a AAA clash for the ages.
Noah Anderson, the young and exciting running back with the host and No. 1-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers found himself stalled as he battled to find a developing gap against the defensive front of PoCo’s No. 2-ranked Terry Fox Ravens.
Suddenly, Anderson seemed to be surrounded by his offensive line, and despite the sweltering heat which caught both teams by surprise, the pile started to move.
In the end, it was for five yards and a first down, but more than anything, in a game which saw Lord Tweedsmuir eventually beat Terry Fox 20-14, it seemed to be a statement of just how ready the hosts were to impose their will and beat the Ravens on their home field for the first time ever.
It was a game in which Lord Tweedsmuir (3-1, 2-0) unleashed the full force of its own Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail, the 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior Yosef Drysdale, who besides booting a pair of second-half field goals, scored off a dynamic 90-yard sideline hitch play in which he twice seemed to on the verge of being taken out of bounds.
But perhaps in the biggest picture of all, it was Lord Tweedsmuir’s ability to dictate play in the trenches which allowed it to play second-half ball-control offence and keep the Ravens (4-1, 1-1) off the scoreboard.
“I think they outplayed us up front in the first half,” said Tweedsmuir head coach Kurt Thornton of the Ravens, who rallied form a 14-0 deficit early in the first quarter to tie the game 14-14 at half. “They broke some big runs on us, and in the second quarter, we lost our composure a bit.
“But I have to give credit to our offensive line in the second half,” Thornton continued. “They were really able to bear down. We ground the clock. We got some drives going and we didn’t have to rely on the pass. That really turned the tide. You could see (the Ravens) wear down. So I was pretty proud of our kids to be able to do that against Terry Fox.”
Ravens coach and former CFL lineman Tom Kudaba concurred when asked where he thought the game was won.
“I think on the lines, I think it was pretty evident,” Kudaba said. “They had fewer guys going two ways and it showed a bit. And in the end, we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank. I would say they were a tad more aggressive, but we’ll get there. I’m not worried about that.”
Turnovers were the theme of the first half.
In a scoreless game with 2:51 left in the first quarter, Ravens’ defensive tackle Layth Begg recovered a fumble at the Tweedsmuir 20-yard line.
On the next play, however, Panthers’ cornerback Kojo Odoom made an interception on the shadows of his own goal line, and on the very next play quarterback Trey Jones hit Drysdale on a short hitch up the sidelines, right in front of the Tweedsmuir bench.
“He did it right in front of us,” said Thornton. “I said to (offensive coordinator) Nick (Kawaza) that in 15 years of coaching I have never seen a play that athletic. That kid should have gone down but he kept his balance, spun around and stayed in-bounds. The special part of it was, he was two inches from the sideline, and he knew it, but he just kept on going.”
Drysdale broke through two phases of Terry Fox tacklers, at both the 15- and 20-yard lines.
“I think (Terry Fox) was stunned that he was still going,” said Thornton.
Added Kawaza: “The feet are incredible. He’s very dynamic and he’s very entertaining to watch.”
For his part, it was all a blur to Drysdale: “I had no clue. I just ran. I didn’t think about it. I wanted to score so I just ran.”
The early 7-0 lead was soon doubled, and once again, the points came directly off a Fox turnover.
Lord Tweedsmuir defensive lineman Hussein Alhussemi recovered a fumble at the Fox 28-yard-line, and then on the first play of the second quarter, Jones threw a 15-yard TD pass to Odoom.
Terry Fox then rallied.
On a third-and-three from the Lord Tweedsmuir 43-yard line, Liam Cumarasamy powered his way through the home defence and into the end zone.
Ravens’ Defensive end Michael Evans then recovered an LT fumble at the Panthers’ five-yard line and Cade Cote promptly took it from there along the ground to tie score at 14-14.
The second half saw both teams struggle with the heat. Players cramped up in big numbers on both sides.
Yet it was Lord Tweedsmuir which was able to keep the Ravens off the scoreboard, while getting just enough ball control to set up 35- and 28-yard field goals by Drysdale. Defensive back Bachouch Michael snuffed out a last-ditch Terry Fox drive with an athletic interception in the dying seconds.
“We knew if we could get our speed in space, that was going to be the key to the game,” said Thornton. “It was enough to come out with the win.”
Kawaza stressed that the calendar is still in September.
“Being realistic, it’s early in the year,” he said. “We just want to continue to compete and we want to see our kids grow.”
Eric Polan finished with nine tackles to lead the Terry Fox defence. Cote and Cumarasamy combined to rush for 97 yards and two scores.
Jones went 13 of 22 for 228 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Lord Tweedsmuir. Anderson carried 20 times for 73 yards.
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