CHILLIWACK — Vincent Branauer knows that if he keeps doing what he has been doing over the first month-plus of the 2021 B.C. high school football season, chances are he won’t exactly be a secret to opposition defensive offensive line coaches for much longer.
And the same goes for university football recruiters.
Yet in the rarest of rare circumstances, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound 16-year-old defensive end with Chilliwack’s AAA No. 5-ranked G.W. Graham Grizzlies is willing to admits that he is still “a little off the radar.”
All of that despite the fact that he has registered a phenomenal 18 sacks over his first five games. Records are not kept with any level of consistency across the many categories in B.C. high school football, yet it’s a number that is impossible to ignore.
“I haven’t talked to anyone yet,” he says of next-level interest that is soon sure to come, “but since I practically missed all of Grade 9 (with a broken ankle), and then Grade 10 (to a cancelled season), I haven’t been noticed by anyone yet. And during COVID the restrictions meant I couldn’t go to any camps, so I guess I have been under the radar.”
Yet as one of the stars of a G.W. Graham defence filled with talent at all three levels, Branauer and his teammates are playing the kind of football that garners attention, even more so by the fact that in the program’s move to the AAA ranks, it has started the season 5-0 ahead of its 7 p.m. Eastern Conference battle in Abbotsford this Friday against the W.J. Mouat Hawks.
And Branauer has registered his sacks against quality programs, with four apiece against Robert Bateman, St. Thomas More and Kelowna, and six against Vernon.
“I just think that some kids have it, and No. 1, he has it,” begins G.W. Graham head coach Luke Acheson. “He has an amazing first step off the ball.”
Acheson, a former offensive lineman in his playing days, relates a time in practice earlier this season, when to make a point to his players about containing the edge, jumped in for a rep and found himself lined up against Branauer.
“I said ‘OK tackle, let me get in there,’” Acheson said. “I was immediately surprised by his speed off the edge. It caught me off guard.”
Branauer lines up at right end, the only Grade 11 on a line filled senior talent that includes left end Gage O’Neill, tackle Kade Kelly, and 300-pound nose Colton Mocon.
The linebacking core includes the likes of senior Raiden Mastin, and Grade 11s Braeden Macdonald and Logan Tocher, the latter, manning the WILL position and leading the province in total tackles.
Josh Caverly and Tyson Kelly, a pair of seniors, man the safety spots, while seniors Theo Smith and Nick Beck, and Grade 11 Tyson Orregaard take care of the rest of the back end with varying responsibilities.
It’s clearly been a team effort from a defensive standpoint, and that’s not to mention the Grizzlies’ dynamic offence.
“I am extremely excited about Vinny’s edge presence, Mocon’s strength in the middle, and Tocher’s ability to swallow up tackles,” begins Grizzlies’ defensive coordinator Ian Parks. “I love Maston’s football IQ in reading the play and B-Mac’s leadership out there, and my whole secondary are ball hawks with Caverly, Orregaard and (Tyson) Kelly leading the way.”
Put it all together, and it’s a unit in which all have learned to thrive, including Branauer, who in his hours away from the field, has proven to be a true student of the film room, even if that film room happens to be his own laptop computer screen.
“If I look up to anyone in the NFL, it’s Myles Garrett with his explosiveness off the ball,” Branauer says of the Cleveland Browns’ one-man wrecking crew at defensive end.
“He has added a new move, it’s kind of like a hop-step where he head fakes on one side and then he hop steps out, like hopping from his left leg onto his right,” says Branauer. “I am trying to learn that move.”
Yet he has always looked deeper.
“I also watch when he fails his move, too, to see what he did wrong… to see what the (offensive) tackle did good. Then I try to counter off the tackle’s move, because I always want to be able to counter that.”
Come Friday, Branauer expects the competition to keep getting tougher as his team faces W.J. Mouat.
Last week, in a 16-13 win over a much-improved Centennial team, Branauer was held without a sack for the first time this season.
“It sucks not getting a sack, but I realized I am getting double-teammed more, and it means teams are taking notice. It motivates me.”
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