(NOTE — Check back throughout the course of the evening for updates on this story)
LANGLEY — For a second straight season, B.C. high school football teams have been denied the opportunity to compete for provincial championships.
On the heels of the provincial state of emergency now in effect, B.C. School Sports, the governing body for high school sports in this province, has announced that due to the significant and evolving complications cause by widespread flooding and its impact on our provincial highway systems, that the annual Subway Bowl playoff championships will revert to regional instead of provincial playdowns effective this coming weekend.
The decisions were agonizing for all involved.
“There won’t be provincial championships, there will be regional playoffs”, said Travis Bell who chairs B.C. School Sports’ football sports advisory committee. “We just felt that right now, given the current state of highways to get interior teams into the Fraser Valley, whether it’s a week, whether it’s two weeks away, what does that look like?
“The focus became how can we play games, even if not for the end goal of a provincial championship anymore,”added Bell.
“It was ‘How can we get games off and not just cancel things, and push things back when we really don’t know what it is we’re pushing back to.”
The move, in essence, re-jigs the AAA and AA provincial brackets, creating three separate regional championships.
B.C. Place Stadium will continue to remain the home for semifinal and championship final play Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, but for what has now been deemed the B.C. Coastal AAA and B.C. Double AA semifinals and championships.
The four remaining up-country teams will form their own Northern/Interior bracket, one which will integrate the two tiers.
Duchess Park will face Vernon in a AA semifinal game scheduled pre-flood, while AAA Kelowna, initially scheduled to play in Coquitlam this weekend against Terry Fox in a quarterfinal clash, will now face AA South Kamloops in the other semifinal.
“My comment would be that I am obviously disappointed for the Grade 12s since they already had a COVID year when they had to miss out competing for a championship,” said Vernon head coach Sean Smith. “And now the rug gets pulled out from under them again.”
In the end, those involved in the actual decision-making process characterized the final outcome as the best of a very unfortunate situation.
“We get it, it sucks,” said B.C. School Sports executive director Jordan Abney. “This whole thing, coming out of the pandemic, we were so excited to have school sports back, and we have seen the benefit of it, especially in football. It’s really too bad that this is the outcome of it… not to have the full championships that lead to a traditional crowning. It’s terrible.”
Abney, however, spoke to the greater reality taking place in the lives of families struggling in the province’s most heavily-hit flood regions.
“At the same time, there are two pieces of that decision,” Abney began.
“One, safety and priority comes first, and a little perspective. There are lots of people in crisis situations now. A year ago we so desperately wanted any football games to be played, so we have to keep things in perspective about what is going on.
“Secondly, we wanted to make sure as many teams as possible had a chance to play out some form of season, because if it went the other way, there would have been a number of teams whose seasons would have just ended, flat out, without any closure. We didn’t want Grade 12s have their senior seasons end so unceremoniously.
“Certain things are out of our control, and as much as we all love high school sports, there are certain times when that perspective, and taking a step back and realizing what’s going on around us is important to do.”
What happens to the newly-minted Triple-A and Double-A Coastal championship draws?
The Triple A Coastal draw emerges relatively unscathed save Kelowna’s exit.
The Owls’ formerly scheduled foe, Terry Fox, will receive a bye to the semifinals where it will face the winner of this Saturday’s Lord Tweedsmuir at Notre Dame game (1 p.m.).
On the other side of that draw, the Mt. Douglas vs. G.W. Graham may move to Monday with time and location TBA. On the same side of the draw, Centennial’s Saturday game at Vancouver College was set to proceed as scheduled (1 p.m.).
The Coastal AA draw, however, will undergo a big face-lift.
With South Kam, Duchess Park and Vernon exiting for its own Northern-Interior championship, Langley, Robert Bateman and John Barsby have all been given byes to the semifinals at B.C. Place Nov. 27. The match-ups are Barsby vs. Bateman, and Langley vs. the Ballenas/Carson Graham winner.
Thus only game scheduled for this weekend within the Coastal AA, then becomes a contest which has Ballenas at Carson Graham, either Friday or Saturday with kick-off time as well TBD.
Kelowna Owls head coach Chris Cartwright, among the province’s most ardent supporters of the value of high school sports, wouldn’t hide his frustration at the turn of events, yet at the same so eloquently spoke to the understanding he hoped his young players would take out of the situation, tough as it may be, for those whose lives have been thrown into tumult via natural disaster.
“My biggest thing, number one, is how am I going to finish this season on a positive note for these kids so that when they leave this program, they feel they accomplished something after they just poured it all out there?” said Cartwright.
“I’m as competitive as anyone, and I want to play the best in the province,” he continued. “But the chips lay where they lay, and what we have taught our kids is that we’ve got to take what’s in front of us and make the most of it.
“We’re in a state of emergency in our province right now and we have people without homes. And I am going to talk to my players about this, that we’ve got to understand that we’re still lucky to be able to do this. We have people in our communities struggling that don’t know where they are going to be the next day. There has to be a sense of realism in that.”
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.