The 2021-22 B.C. high school sports season opened this past Sept. 2 with its first event in 18 months. On that day, Carson Graham head coach Brian Brady addressed his team before a game at Vancouver College. On Saturday, the Eagles close out the campaign by playing in the Subway Bowl AA Coastal final at BC Place against Abbotsford's Robert Bateman Timberwolves. (Photo by Blair Shier property of 2021. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Football

Football to the power of two: Carson Graham builds strength in numbers as Eagles’ senior and junior teams, season-long practice mates, each vie Saturday for Subway Bowl AA titles!

NORTH VANCOUVER — Ask Brian Brady what all the buzz is about these days within the football program at Carson Graham Secondary, and the Eagles’ head coach can’t help but speak in the most literal sense possible.

“We’re in the dome last week against Langley, it’s late in the game and the phone in my pocket and my watch are just blowing up,” relates Brady as the seconds ticked down on the Eagles’ 24-22 semifinal win over the Thunderbirds.

The reason for all the text messaging buzz?

Earlier in the week, the Carson Graham junior team has beaten West Vancouver 43-28 in its own Subway Bowl semifinal, and thus as the clock ticked down on the senior team’s win over Langley, it had become apparent that both of the school’s teams would be playing under the dome at B.C. Place Stadium on Saturday for season-ending Subway Bowl titles.

“Our junior team was either watching the stream or they were in the stands and they were sending out all of this stuff and everyone was so excited,” Brady added. “There is this sense of togetherness and community that we are experiencing this year, and it has really benefitted both teams.”

And it all culminates Saturday.

At 9:30 a.m., the day will begin with the B.C. junior AA Coastal championship between Carson Graham and Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs.

Later in the day, at 4 p.m., the Carson Graham senior varsity takes on Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves in its B.C. senior AA Coastal championship.

With Sherwin Gozali (left) and Vytor Oliveira (51) doing the work up front, Carson Graham quarterback Logan Mellish enjoyed one of the most productive seasons in all of B.C. high school football as both a passer and a runner. (Photo by Blair Shier property of 2021. All Rights Reserved)

And the opportunity to win a pair of titles on the final day of a challenging 2021 re-start season is especially meaningful for Brady, his fellow coaches and the combined roster of both teams because over the entirety of this season, the two teams came together each day to practice alongside the other under a shared philosophy, one which would even morph into opportunities where they’d help each other prepare for their respective opposition.

“We’re out there every day from first whistle to last whistle,” begins Brady of a system he has introduced for the first time this season and modelled from the likes of successful programs run by the New Westminster Hyacks and Mt. Douglas Rams.

“The older guys are setting the tone, and when your best players are also your hardest workers, that’s what it does. It establishes something with the younger grades, and then it just becomes normal.

“To start it can be a hard thing,” Brady adds. “But once you establish those benchmarks and habits, all of a sudden, it starts to roll on its own.”

In times where coaches are battling to maintain numbers and achieve buy-in from its players, Carson Graham has a healthy convocation of Eagles which has numbered as high as 107, and currently sits at about 85.

And one of the best parts of the system is the way all of the players, especially the younger ones, are made to feel a vital part of the whole.

That was especially apparent this past Tuesday when both teams gathered together for the first time as respective Coastal AA championship game participants.

“We started things out by having them all gather in a circle so they could see each other,” said Brady. “And you could feel it, the pride they all had in each other. There is pride for the program, and there is this continuity that we are sharing each other’s accomplishments.”

Like the senior team appreciating the fact that some of their influence — through mentorship, or reps, or both — could be felt in the junior team’s win over West Vancouver.

“And then in the senior team’s win over Langley,” begins Brady, “our 9s and 10s, they would run the scout as the starting offence and defence. So everyone just has this huge sense of accomplishment. But while everyone is happy where we’re at, everyone knows that we are not done yet.”

Carson Graham receiver Aidan Nemeth (left) will be a prime focus of the Bateman secondary come Saturday. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)

Of course, at the senior AA level, Bateman’s Timberwolves provide an ultimate challenge to the Eagles’ title quest.

A month ago, in a Nov. 5 Coastal league clash, the Wolves toppled the Eagles’ 46-12.

Yet there was Carson Graham beating Langley last week in the semifinals, a team which had earlier beaten them 50-6.

And the Carson Graham junior team has shown the same signs of comeback resilience.

In its Subway Bowl quarterfinal and semifinal, it beat first Holy Cross and then, as mentioned West Vancouver, in both instances turning the tables on those teams from earlier regular season encounters. On Saturday, it faces another such team in John Barsby, which beat them 54-0 back in Nanaimo on Oct. 20.

“It means a lot to this program,” Brady said of getting a chance to play for two titles on the final day of the season. “Our last two junior varsity games, and our last senior game, we beat teams that earlier in the season we had lost to.

“So you look at the kids now, and you see them learning, in real time, that practicing and buying into the process pays offs.”

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