ABBOTSFORD — Growing up in what can only be described as one of the first families of Abbotsford football, Logan McDonald cops to the fact that not a day goes by without a little father-son gridiron gab-fest.
“I remember last spring break, we were in Arizona, working on the playbook pool-side laughs,” McDonald of the passion he and his dad Lance share for the game.
B.C. high school football has linked generations of families ever since King Edward High won the first-ever title back in 1934.
And this season, on the eastern edges of the Fraser Valley, nowhere is that bond shining stronger than at Robert Bateman Secondary School, where offensive coordinator Lance sends in the plays for quarterback Logan to bark out in the huddle, all to grand effect.
“It’s just been a constant thing,” says Logan, who leads the Timberwolves into the Subway Bowl AA semifinals Saturday (11 a.m.) against Surrey’s Holy Cross Crusaders at B.C. Place Stadium. ‘We’ve always bounced ideas off of each other, and he always ends up making me look good.”
ABBOTSFORD HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL HISTORY 101
If the Timberwolves can get past the Crusaders on Saturday, they would become just the fourth Abbotsford school to ever play for what is now known as a provincial senior varsity Subway Bowl title.
And of course, how perfect is it, that the city’s first-ever B.C. high school football champions were the 1984 Abbotsford Panthers, whose starting quarterback was none other than Lance McDonald?
That team beat Notre Dame 14-4 in the title game and set the bar for the rest of the city’s schools, most prominently W.J. Mouat, who under head coach Denis Kelly won AAA B.C. titles in 1992, 2002 and 2005, making a total of nine Subway Bowl championship final game appearances.
Abby Senior’s return to provincial elite included Double-A title-game appearances in 2015 and last season. The only other Abbotsford school to play in the B.C. final were the AAA Rick Hansen Hurricanes, who finished second in 2003 and won it all in 2004, some 20 years after the Panthers, for head coach Paul Gill, who coincidentally, was a teammate of Lance McDonald on that 1984 Abbotsford championship team.
All of this is brought to your attention as a reminder of all the unique ways in which success has beget success in a fertile pocket of the B.C. high school football world.
PRODIGIOUS IN THE POCKET, HUMBLE IN THE HUDDLE
Robert Bateman head coach David Mills remembers seeing his future starting senior varsity quarterback as early as the ninth grade.
“The first thing that stood out was how it all seemed so natural for him,” says Mills. “He knew what he was doing. He was just a smart kid.”
Of course, through the tutelage of his dad, he grew up both loving and learning the game, and that combination, Mills says, is evident in his command of offence.
“He thinks the game more than I have seen in any high school student,” Mills continues, “from route combinations, schemes, situational play-calling. His knowledge of the game, the when and why to do certain things, it’s off the charts.”
His maturation, in concert with the rest of an enthusiastic pack of Wolves, was reflected not only in the improvements McDonald made this season, but in the accolades accorded him.
Last season, on a team that finished last in the AA Eastern Conference with an 0-5 record, the Grade 11 pivot went 102-of-224 for 1,134 yards and six touchdowns. Along with an ineffective 46 per cent completion percentage he threw 13 picks.
Thus far this season, he’s thrown 50 fewer passes, but his efficiency fat outstrips that of a season ago.
Heading into Saturday, McDonald has gone 117-of-174 for 1,664 yards and 19 touchdowns. Most importantly, his completion percentage has climbed to 67 per cent and he has only been picked off four times.
All of that was enough for McDonald to be selected B.C. Double A Offensive Player of the Year.
Like any successful quarterback, however, McDonald can’t accept a compliment without praising his team, and more specifically, his receivers and offensive line.
Those pass catchers?
It’s a deep bunch, but Ryan Sztuhar, Sam Davenport and Markus Rauch, a trio of seniors, along with Grade 11 running back Phoenix Moller have all been skill-position playmakers in concert with McDonald.
The offensive line?
McDonald can’t afford to buy Rolexes, but he goes one step better, offering the names, grades, spellings and positions of the Wolves’ five starters.
“OK, so if we go left to right,” begins McDonald, “our left tackle is Connor Dueck, and he’s in Grade 10. Our left guard is Grade 12 Chris Martin. At centre, Avi (Bhavkirat) Bagri is in Grade 11. Our right guard is Jack Weinkauf, in Grade 11. And our right guard is a Grade 12, and that’s Jordan Bahm.”
The reason these Timberwolves have been able to make such a drastic about-face from last season?
“I think the difference has been in the passion of our guys this year,” says McDonald. “Last year, the talent was there, but we just weren’t able to connect on the same level. And also credit to our coaches, because they really know what they’re doing.”
A FATHER, A SON AND FOOTBALL
Logan McDonald is a big Chicago Bears fan, and you can’t help but note the similarities to his own quarterbacking story the past couple of years, and that of Bears second-year pivot Mitch Trubisky.
At each players respective level, last season was about growing into the position, McDonald’s as a first-time senior varsity high school starter and Trubisky’s as a first-time NFL starter.
Now, both have taken the next step forward.
“There not a throw we have in our offence that he can’t make,” Mills says of McDonald. “He is very accurate. Like last week, those three touchdowns he threw, all were perfectly placed balls. If he misses, he misses by a yard. So his accuracy is as impressive as his arm strength.”
And come Saturday, Logan McDonald will once again bark in the huddle, glancing to the sidelines for cues from his dad, and then getting back to the business of commanding a football team.
“My dad has helped me a lot, and from such a young age, too,” McDonald says of dad Lance, who not only went on to play at both UBC and with the Abbotsford Air Force, but was the first head coach of the Rick Hansen program, and currently is the principal at Bateman
“I can remember watching football on TV with him, how he would pause, rewind, and give me advice about the game before I had even started playing,” the son continues. “And once I started playing, always working through the playbook together. It’s been great.”
A father, a son and football.
When you’re at B.C. Place on Saturday, just know that it’s stories like these which remain the lifeblood of our game.
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