LANGLEY — When you spend your entire high school rugby career growing up in the shadow of Goliath, finally getting a chance to step out into a spotlight of your own can be a little blinding.
“For all these years, Shawnigan Lake has been like a super-hero,” Oak Bay Barbarians’ senior Nick Carson explained on Friday evening. “Just unbeatable. So this means a ton. I knew since the beginning of the season that we could do it. But now that we’re actually here? It’s pretty surreal.”
They’d already beaten the Stags once this season, 20-15 in the Vancouver Island Quad-A final.
Yet taking down the single most reliable program in all of B.C. high school sports in the provincial championship game environment they have come to call their very own by winning it all in eight of the previous nine seasons?
“I’m almost speechless because of what it means to our program,” said Barbs’ head coach Pete Atkinson following the Victoria school’s 24-13 victory over Shawnigan Lake in the showcase B.C. Quad-A final Friday at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium.
“We have battled for so many years,” he continued. “To have been third, third, fourth, fourth, third, third… and then to get over the top? It’s emotional.”
On a night of landmarks, the two biggest which stood out from an Oak Bay perspective?
It was the first B.C. title for the Barbarians since 2003, a span of some 15 years.
Yet more than that perhaps, their victory represented the first by a public school at B.C. high school boys rugby’s top tier since North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles took home the gold exactly 10 years ago in 2008.
“For a public school to pull this off is an amazing feat,” said Atkinson, whose charges got the start they wanted Friday by taking a 17-5 halftime lead. “For that to happen, and to have all the support we had in the stands, it’s all so meaningful.”
The Barbs played like a rugby family all week so perhaps it was no surprise that it’s genuine rugby family helped lead the way over the game.
Grade 11 Jack Carson scored the game’s first two trys, the second converted by his cousin Nick Carson, for a 12-0 lead 13 minutes before the half. Jack’s dad Jim, a 1981 Oak Bay grad and player, was there, as was Nick’s dad Leonard, another ex-Barb and a 1983 grad.
Shawnigan Lake’s Dean Mason answered to make it 12-5 about seven minutes later, but right before intermission Nick Carson was able to add a try of his own.
Stags’ kicker Ben Curley booted a penalty to pull Shawnigan Lake to within 17-8, but with about 15 minutes left, Oak Bay scrum half John Boehme juked and powered his way acorss the try line for an imposing 24-8 lead.
James MacDonald added a late try for the Stags with 28 seconds left to round out the scoring.
“To be honest, Oak Bay just did a good job in taking away our opportunities,” admitted Stags’ head coach Tim Murdy, whose Saban-esque run of titles has been incomparable in the dynasties he has fashioned, first at West Vancouver’s Rockridge Secondary, and now at SLS. “Anybody involved in sport knows you will lose games once in a while. It’s not something we want to make a habit of. But Oak Bay has been good all year and this is the second time they have beaten us.”
The coach went on to add that the program’s accomplishments have created an incredibly high bar for every edition of the school’s first XV to try and honour.
Sometimes, that can be a double-edged sword.
“I told the kids it’s going to sting for a while, and I feel bad for the boys that because of some of the success we’ve had in years gone by, it (creates) a bit of pressure to carry on the legacy and that is not fair. Every year is different. They need to keep their heads high.”
*In the B.C. junior final contested prior to the Quad-A final, Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners came through with a 40-36 win over Shawnigan Lake.
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