It’s certainly no stretch to say that the Vernon Panthers have had their way with the opposition on more than a few occasions over the course of the 2018 B.C. high school football season.
Yet for a program still seeking the holy grail of a Subway senior varsity title, it’s a tad uncomfortable when your week-to-week AA opposition has spent not a single week in the Varsity Letters’ Big 5 provincial rankings.
Friday night in Vernon, however, the host and No. 1-ranked Panthers put a lot of their fears to rest.
Vernon scored on every possession over the first three quarters on their way to a decisive 51-14 win over a Ballenas Whalers’ team which spent its entire season in the Big 5 and was at one stage ranked at No. 2 in the province.
The Cats used a balanced attack with 188 yards through the air and 282 on the ground to score seven touchdowns.
Running back Charles Lemay had another MVP-like performance on both sides of the ball with 223 yards on 12 carries to go along with three rushing touchdowns.
He added two catches for 51 yards and a receiving major, as well as four solo tackles.
Not to be outdone, Thomas Hyett went an efficient 12-of-15 for 188 yards to go along with two touchdowns, including one to Zack Smith, the game’s leading receiver (three catches, 75 yards, one touchdown).
“I really liked how balanced we were on offence today,” said Vernon head coach Sean Smith. “Our run game was creating big holes for our backs and we were able to find the open man when we dropped back. I think this was our best team effort of the year. We had so many boys step up to make big plays. When we play like that we are pretty tough to defend.”
Vernon led 37-7 at the half, one of its highlights being a 98-yard kick-off return for a major score by Caden Danbrook, who also added three tackles on defence.
Matthew Reich made eight tackles to lead the defence.
The Danbrook score was a spirit-buster for Ballenas who trailed 14-7 at the time.
“I think that allowed us to steal the energy back,” said Smith, whose team faces the winner of today’s quarterfinal between John Barsby and G.W. Graham next week in a semifinal clash at B.C. Place.
The Panthers’ defence did a superb job of keeping the Whalers in check.
“We knew they had big boys up front and we had to take it on if we were going to have any success against them,” continued Smith, who last season coached Vernon past Ballenas in the B.C. JV AA totle game. “I was very impressed with how physical we were able to be around the ball. Matthew Reich was amazing out there tonight. He was all over the field making plays. I think he set the tone for the game on their first offensive play when he took on their fullback and then made the tackle for a loss on a toss play. We’ve had a few tilts with Ballenas the last few years and we always know we are going to run into a well-coached program. I have a lot of respect for the job they are doing in Parksville and we put a lot of time into our game plan to account for their expertise.
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