VANCOUVER — Perhaps it has sunk in by this Sunday morning, but Dino Geremia took all of Saturday night trying to comprehend one of the biggest wins in Centennial Secondary football history.
“It took everyone coming together to achieve a win like this,” said Geremia about an hour after Saturday’s epic 27-24 upset of No. 1-ranked, undefeated defending Subway Bowl champion Vancouver College on the Fighting Irish’s own O’Hagan Field grounds Saturday afternoon in a Subway Bowl Coastal AAA quarterfinal.
For the sake of history, and with respect to every sensitivity regarding the emotional topic of game classifications which had become all the rage this past week, this one simply can not be classified. It stands on its own and the reasons are two-fold:
*The incredible effort expended by the entire Centaurs’ program, from its coaches through it players and support staff to prepare a team which entered this season 0-for-its-last-three-seasons (0-21), to produce a win no one would have thought possible, especially at this stage of the campaign.
*The standard by which Vancouver College football has made victory seem the expected outcome like no other in recent memory, forging what may well be the single most impressive stretch of dominance in the history of B.C. high school football, a stretch of 19 straight victories — including 12 shutouts — which incredibly includes ‘just’ one top-tier Subway Bowl title.
But for yesterday’s loss and a global pandemic, the Irish could be sitting at somewhere around 30 straight wins with a third title just a couple of weeks away.
Put both of those factors together, and it was why Geremia was still trying to fully process what had happened as he looked over the day’s events.
“I’m still kind of taking it all in,” he said of an effort in which his team took a 21-7 lead at half, pushed it to 27-7 on the first drive of the third quarter and then hunkered down with both his team and the football gods to hold on for the victory.
“I am so impressed with just our preparation through the week, and really it’s been like that all year,” he added. “I talked last week about the fact that we just wanted to get better for this game, and I felt like we did get better today.
“It was one of those days when your top players played great, everybody filled their roles and things just came together. We had a tough time in the fourth, but we showed we weren’t just going to lay down.”
When the Centaurs played at VC in a non-conference exhibition on Oct. 19, the Irish blanked them 27-0.
But by Saturday, a day shy of two months later, the skill-position trio of quarterback Malcolm Cameron, receiver Keyshawn Beswick and running back Ziad Sabry were the offensive keystones of what seemed a completely different team.
Cameron, at the start of the season still an evolving project at the pivot, went 11-for-20 for 190 yards, including throwing the three first-half touchdown passes to Beswick, which accounted for all the Centaurs first-half majors.
On the day, Beswick caught six passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns.
Beswick made scoring grabs of 44 yards to open the game, seven yards, and one yard.
In the second half, he opened with another huge gainer, this one setting up Sabry’s 22-yard touchdown run. Sabry, the East’s AAA Offensive Player of the Year, carried 21 times for 92 yards.
“When you score first, the belief just starts to come,” said Geremia, “and so when Keyshawn Beswick made that phenomenal play, it really started the day off for us.”
The defence was led by middle linebacker Markus Rafnson, who finished with 10 tackles, a sack, a pick and what would be a huge fourth-down stop to decide the game and seal the victory.
“We knew they needed a play,” said Geremia of Vancouver College’s final offensive snaps with clock running down.
“They had beat us on play-action throughout the game and we focussed on being disciplined on defence in expecting that play action,” said Geremia. “The positive was, that even on their play-action that was successful, our ends and a pair of linebackers made it tough on the quarterback. We just had to play solid and fortunately we learned from it, and we were able to shut them down when we needed to.”
Tamani Duncan had seven tackles and an interception.
Vancouver College quarterback Alex Zychlinksi played a poised game in leading his team back from the brink on the potential game-winning drive over a half in which his team had trailed by 20 points.
Zychlinski, who finished 17-of-27 for 239 yards and three scores, made it 14-7 Centaurs after his eight-yard TD pass to Chris Joseph in the first quarter.
Then in the fourth, he threw touchdown strikes of 19 yards and then seven yards to receiver Thomas Roberts.
Add a safety and two Mattias Eastman converts and Vancouver College, which was led defensively by the likes of Matteo Trasolini, Jack Procter and Lachlan Scardina, very nearly kept its incredible streak alive.
As it is, the Centaurs will face the winner of Monday’s game between Mt. Douglas and G.W. Graham this Saturday in a Subway semifinal at B.C. Place Stadium.
Notre Dame and Terry Fox will square off in the other semifinal.
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