VANCOUVER — It was a game filled with enough highlight-reel scoring plays to stuff an entire season-long hype video.
But in the end, two huge plays wound up being the difference as Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs outscored the Carson Graham Eagles of North Vancouver 34-28 to capture the Subway Bowl B.C. AA junior varsity Coastal championship title Saturday at B.C. Place.
Running back Rhonde Lyle’s 36-yard touchdown run with 3:53 remaining, and his subsequent two-point convert run, put the Bulldogs on top to stay at 34-28.
Then, with 2:24 remaining, defensive back Jonny Durkan’s ball-hawking interception sealed the deal as the Bulldogs won their first JV title at the dome since 2011.
“This crew here is special,” remarked the long-serving John Barsby head coach Rob Stevenson. “Half of them had never played football, but they did the work, two nights a week all summer, no pads, just out there. That carried us, that helped us maintain our work ethic all year.”
Carson Graham, quite amazingly, had lost in the Hub City to these very ‘Dawgs by a 54-0 count on Oct. 20 before almost winning on Saturday.
In fact when Kai Nickle caught a two-point convert pass to complete a 16-yard touchdown throw from Eagles’ quarterback Liam Marshall to receiver Liam Nielson with 7:32 remaining, the North Vancouverites were in command of the contest at 28-26.
“You can’t erase a score like that one,” Stevenson said of his team’s comfortable early win over the Eagles. “But Carson has just kept doing it the right way. They had 54 kids. They platooned them all year. I knew this was coming down the pipes, that we were going to be playing a tough team. They’d played two games while we’d had a three-week bye, and the score today was indicative of just how close a game this was.”
Lyle put the Dawgs on top 12-0 in the first quarter behind a 23-yard scoring run and a four-yard TD grab.
Carson Graham rallied to lead 14-12 at halftime behind a three-yard strike from Marshall to Fin Nemeth, and then a seven-yard strike from Marshall to Sebastian Moldenhauer. The difference was Nemeth’s two-point convert reception on the first score.
The second half saw the teams trade majors for two quarters,
Colton Finstad’s 10-yard run with a Kai Rednour-Bruckman two-point running convert put Barsby ahead 20-14, but Nickle’s five-yard run knotted things at 20-20.
In the fourth, Rednour-Bruckman made it 26-20 Barsby on a six-yard run, setting the stage for the Nielson major and Nickle convert which had put the Eagles back on top down the stretch drive.
“I am so proud of this group,” said Carson Graham head coach Brian Brady. “They started the year having only played physically-distanced, non-padded football but they just had a commitment to improve as a team. Every single guy got better this year. Ultimately we were two to three plays short of winning this game. Barsby set the standard this year for JV football and we gave them all they could handle. Congratulations to them on their great accomplishment.”
Added Stevenson: “Our guys learned poise and what the mission was all about. And I have to say, we were supported by a tremendous school staff and a fabulous group of parents.”
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