VANCOUVER — A three-game season-opening homestand at its own O’Hagan Field couldn’t have felt more like, well… home, sweet home for the defending B.C. AAA champion and No. 1-ranked Vancouver College Fighting Irish.
Yet within the guts of a 32-0 win Saturday over one of its true traditional rivals, Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Knights, the Irish were pushed to play the kind of defence which has defined them of late, the kind of defence that quells dangerous momentum.
“This was a weird game… just in terms of its choppiness and lack of flow,” said Irish head coach Todd Bernett. “Both sides made plays, both sides took a stand, and both sides made major mistakes that left it open to being anybody’s game at halftime.
“In a rivalry game you can’t turn the ball over or commit careless penalties, and we did. STM capitalized on our mistakes and established field position that put us on our heels.”
Judging by yet another Irish shutout you may dismiss such talk, yet trailing 16-0 in the second quarter, the Knights found themselves scrimmaging from the Irish two-yard line, looking to do just what Bernett would later speak to.
After a few Irish penalties, and some nice runs by STM’s Ryan Huang, STM was knocking on the door.
“But VC’s defence stifled us,” said Knights’ head coach Jared Power. “We didn’t have an answer for VC’s front four or coverage all day.”
A 50-yard first quarter pass from Vancouver College’s Alex Zychlinski to Chris Joseph, an Irish safety after STM snapped the ball over its punter’s head, a four-yard run by Irish running back Tommy Carvalho, and a one-yard Zychlinski keeper, however, made it 23-0 at the break.
After a scoreless third, the Zychlinski-to-Jospeh duo hit again, this time on an 11-yard TD strike to round out the scoring.
“I was proud of our guys today,” said Power. “We were down four linemen going into the game and went down by another in the third quarter. Our guys didn’t quit. They kept coming for more all day long. That resilience and fortitude is going to take us a long way as we develop throughout this season.”
Zychlinski was 8-of-13 for 146 yards and two touchdowns but he was picked off twice, by STM’s Denayden Lee-Daniels and Jack Sutherland.
Joseph caught four passes for 99 yards and two scores, while Carvalho carried 11 times for 67 yards.
Josh Faria paced STM with eight tackles while Brandon Johal had six tackles and a sack. Matthew Auld had five tackles, and Evan Mak four tackles and a forced fumble.
Additional sacks came from Gray Harmer and Brandon Johal.
Matteo Trasolini with 10 tackles, and Alex Kahwaki with seven led the Irish defence.
“It was a great day to celebrate a return to sports… beautiful weather, a great rivalry and a huge crowd,” said Bernett of the spectacle on display at O’Hagan which played out before about 2,500 fans.
“We appreciated the opportunity to once again play the game we love in front of both of our school communities.”
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