No. 1 vs. No. 2, both sitting with perfect 8-0 records, and set to meet in the Subway Bowl 2019 AA Final Four one week from Saturday at B.C. Place Stadium?
That’s the plotline put into play Friday as the top-ranked, defending B.C. champion Vernon Panthers and Parksville’s No. 2-ranked Ballenas Whalers each came away with quarterfinal wins.
The other side of the draw will be settled Saturday between the winner of a 9:30 a.m. clash at B.C. Place Stadium between the No. 4-ranked Langley Saints and Vernon’s Clarence Fulton Maroons; and a 7:30 p.m. battle at Chilliwack’s Exhibition Stadium between the host and No. 3-ranked G.W. Graham Grizzlies, and Surrey’s Holy Cross Crusaders.
Check back with us Saturday night for reports from the rest of the quarterfinal round as well as the matchups for Subway Bowl’s 2019 football Final Four.
Here, in our abbreviated B.C. High School Friday Night Lights report, is our look at the only two games played:
WINDSOR 6 at NO. 1 VERNON 56
VERNON — The host Panthers scored on all but one possession en route to its lopsided win over its North Vancouver visitors.
Zack Smith, the Interior Conference’s Offensive MVP, showed why Okanagan teams have had a tough time containing him, turning in another dominant performance on both sides of the ball.
Smith rushed for 236 yards on 14 carries (16.8 yds/carry) while going 4-of-6 for 104 yards through the air.
The Panthers’ pivot, from 10, 45 and 30 yards, accounted for all three of his team’s rushing scores while also throwing scoring strikes of 20 yards to Caden Danbrook and 72 yards to Trent Charlton.
“We knew we’d see a lot of two-high read/match-up defence which left us a lot of room to run,” said Vernon head coach Sean Smith. “Our offensive line was great in pass protection and they were able to create some holes all game. Zack did a great job of finding seams in the defence and made them pay over the top a couple of times,”
Defensively, the Panthers were stingy.
“Coach (Ray) Wladichuk did a great job of mixing up the coverages and our guys executed almost flawlessly,” added the head coach off his defensive coordinator. “Sometimes you never know what each group is going to give you when the games matter. I think these guys proved they are competitors and will compete on every play. I was very impressed that the load was shared amongst a lot of defenders.”
Tristan Massini had four tackles while seven others had three each.
The Panthers led 35-0 going into the break and were able to get their rookies and juniors some quality reps in the second half while grinding it out on the ground in a torrential downpour.
Grade 9 tailback Damon Froste continued to impress in his call-up opportunities with 68 rushing yards on 10 carries. He would cap off a pair of drives with touchdowns of 10 and four yards.
Ethan Greenan rushed nine times for 43 yards while Caden Danbrook returned a kick-off 80 yards for a score.
NO. 5 ROBERT BATEMAN 14 at NO. 2 BALLENAS 35
NANAIMO — Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves came ready to play, and they carried that mantra into the third quarter on Friday at Merle Logan Field, looking to pull an upset which would propel them into the Subway Bowl Final Four next week at B.C. Place.
Andy Tran picked of Ballenas quarterback Ben Chomolok, and his pick-six finish, complete with a two-point convert from Phoenix Moller, knotted the game 14-14.
However, a potential go-ahead drive was snuffed out by a fumbled in Ballenas territory, and the Whalers just kept doing what they’ve done all season, scoring their final three touchdowns in unanswered fashion en route to victory.
“The final score doesn’t reflect how close the game was for the majority,” admitted Whalers’ head coach Jeremy Conn. “We expected a hard battle because Bateman is well-coached and has some really good talent, so I wasn’t surprised when they got ahead of us early on. I think our kids underestimated them so it’s a good learning lesson for sure.”
Moller, who was forced to play along the offensive line the past two games due to injuries, moved back to his usual spot in the backfield and scored on a long run to give the Wolves an early 6-0 lead.
Chomolok, however, was ultimately impossible to stop.
The quarterback led all Whalers’ rushers with 13 carries for 70 yards and three touchdowns, while also going 8-of-19 passing for two more scores.
After Moller’s opening salvo, Chomolok scored on a two-yard run, then hit Nathan Robinson with a TD strike on a 29-yard post route for a 14-6 halftime lead.
“We had to settle down so we got back to basics with our run game and quick-passing attack,” added Conn, who got 68 yards rushing from RB-1 Demar Hohnstein who was hampered over the second half with an injury.
Eventually, the Whalers pulled away as Chomolok ran in two more scores off sneaks and found wide receiver Jacob Stockton on a 32-yard slant and run for the touchdown.
The Whalers’ defence then finished it off with a sack, strip and fumble recovery to ice the win.
Adrian Friesen led the team with six tackles and Jack Giroux had five.
“It was a good team win,” said Conn. “We had several players step up to fill roles taken on by injuries. Now we need to get healthy. It only gets harder from here on out. With both our senior and junior teams headed to the semifinals, we are really proud of our program.”
Added Bateman head coach David Mills: “Defensively we did a great job, for the most part, on downs one, two and three, but we struggled on fourth down all day. We also got hurt by a few ticky-tack penalties in key situations. Tough to win playoff football with mistakes at key times. Offensively, we were able to move the ball but struggled to punch it in and then got bit by the turnover bug in the second half.
“But for this team, with a whole whack on starters in their first or second year of football, to make it to the provincial quarterfinals, is a testament to the work they put in all year. I couldn’t be prouder of this group of players.”
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