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NEW WESTMINSTER 22 at LINFIELD CHRISTIAN (Cal.) 9
Disneyland. Huntington Beach.
The New Westminster Hyacks soaked it and the warm California sun up all week.
In the end, however, nothing took away from the focus of B.C.’s No. 2-ranked Triple-A football team.
The Hyacks opened the 2017 B.C. season Friday in upscale Temecula, Cal., parlaying an electric debut by newcomer Sebastian Reid and suffocating run defence to beat the host Linfield Christian Lions 22-9.
Within California’s 12-division state high school class system, the Lions play at Div. 5.
“We had a good week of practice and I thought the effort level was very good, especially considering how hot it’s been down here,” said New Westminster head coach Farhan Lalji, who then joked: “We wanted them to be busy so they wouldn’t get into any trouble.”
“We packed their days with activity, we squeezed in film sessions,” he continued. “We scheduled them heavily and they responded. This is a group that is very passionate about football.”
After holding the Lions to a 26-yard field on the hosts’ opening drive after Linfield had gotten to first-and-goal at the New West five yard-line, thunder struck.
On the ensuing kickoff, Reid was sprung early by several key blocks on his way to a 92-yard touchdown.
Reid initially fumbled the return, but picked up the ball at the eight yard-line. Breaking to his left, he got a great block at the 25, then another at midfield from Arjun Bal.
Broxx Comia, the Grade 11 running back who would later run in the two-point convert, also played a role in Reid’s touchdown when he pancaked the Lions’ kicker attempting to make a last-ditch stop.
The Hyacks’ 8-3 lead held to the half, however Linfield took a 9-8 lead on their first offensive snap of the second half when receiver Travion Brown, the Lions’ dynamic 6-foot-3, 202 pound Grade 11 wide receiver, scored on an 80-yard reception.
Noted as a two-way star, Brown has received offers from both Oregon and Boston College as a linebacker.
His major, however, would be the hosts’ final points of the night as New Westminster closed the game on a 14-0 run.
With 5:51 left in the third quarter, Comia scored on a 14-yard run for a 14-9 lead.
Then in the fourth quarter, Michael Kingsley scored on another 14-yard run, the two-point convert from Sammy Sidhu capping the night and making the 22-9 final complete.
“We didn’t let them cross midfield the rest of the way,” added Lalji of New West’s final nine minutes of play.
The Hyacks entered the game with four key frontline players missing from their rotation, yet matched against a massive Linfield front, more than held their own.
“We’re going to get better and deeper as we go,” said Lalji. “Tonight, it was all we could do to manufacture depth.”
The Lions marched out three linemen standing 6-foot-3 or taller, each tipping the scales at 280-pounds plus. Two have already received offers from Power Five conference schools.
“Those three linemen were very large and from a size standpoint there were mismatches,” said Lalji. “But I was impressed with how we ran the ball and how we shut down their run game after the first drive. We got pressure on the passer and we made them one-dimensional.”
Sidhu was exceptional on defence, and while final stats were not immediately available, he likely eclipsed double digits in tackles.
“We tackled very well and we were gritty defensively,” added Lalji who mentioned Isaiah James, Yanni Angelopoulos and Evan Nolli as standouts along the line. “We rallied and tackled really well. All the DB’s were rallying to the ball.”
The tough early scheduling continues next week when the Hyacks host Scapoose (Ore.) in their home opener Friday (6:30 p.m.) at Mercer Stadium.
“Scapoose might not have some of the players Linfield had, but overall will be a better team with their systems of play,” Lalji said. “The challenge next week gets tougher but we scheduled tough because our league, it’s a meat grinder.”
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