CHILLIWACK — The era of the Grizzlies has seemingly arrived.
While the NBA variety has been extinct in these part for the past near-20 seasons, the high school football species prowling in the eastern-most expanses of the Fraser Valley is just now starting to hit its championship-hopeful stride.
Blessed with a crop of rising Grade 11s led by a generationally-gifted receiver named Logan Buchwitz, Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies will open the 2019 season this September ranked No. 2 in the Varsity Letters B.C. high school coaches preseason poll.
And you only need to harken back to the events of this past December to remember just how dominant those JV Grizzlies were.
In the highest scoring championship final ever staged at any age group in the history of B.C. high school football, the Grizzlies topped North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes 69-27 in a game in which the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Buchwitz caught seven touchdown passes and completed his Grade 10 campaign with an amazing 56 majors.
Yet the scariest part of it all is that as talented as Buchwitz is, G.W. Graham has plenty of other talent surrounding him, including fellow rising Grade 11 quarterback Grayson Frick, who will ascend to the head of the QB depth chart this coming season.
Last season, with Grade 11 QB-1 Colby Bessette absent due to a mission trip to Mexico at the start of the Subway Bowl senior playoffs, the Grizz summoned Frick to the senior squad, and in a 59-6 quarterfinal win on the road over Prince George’s Kelly Road Roadrunners, Frick set all-time school passing records by going 26-of-41 for 519 yards and eight touchdowns to five different players, all of whom — Buchwitz, Liam Dallas, running back Jaiden Claassen, Jett Thomas and Michael Hopwood — seem the perfect fit to enjoy a 2019-vintage Fun Bunch-type season reminiscent of those early-1980s Washington Redskins.
“I think it’s all about coming together and all we’re trying to do is check our egos at the door and grow as a unit,” says Luke Acheson, who assumes head coaching responsibilities this season after serving as offensive coordinator the past two campaigns.
“Last year, even though we had to play most of the juniors up to have a senior season, we saw a bit of a divide between the juniors and seniors,” continued Acheson, who will continue to lead the program with former head coach Laurie Smith. “But so far through workouts we’ve got everything and everyone moving in one direction. That is encouraging.”
It’s meant Bessette will step back from quarterback into a leading role as a slot back within the team’s deep core of pass catchers, making them that much more dangerous and also insuring tremendous depth at the pivot position.
And it’s meant that Frick will have two full seasons of senior varsity football with which to work with Buchwitz and the rest of GWG’s graduating Class of 2021 players.
Buchwitz has continued to hone is talent, spending his off-season in the U.S. with the Whatcom Wild 7-man program.
Acheson stresses that while Buchwitz has the ability to make everything look easy on the field, he has worked extremely hard to become a true student-athlete.
“When you talk about Logan Buchwitz, he didn’t get there just because he is 6-4, 220,” Acheson notes. “He has put in a bunch of work to get real strong, to build his core and be able to use all of his skills. Plus, he’s a 4.0 (grade point average) kid in the classroom. He’s super-coachable and the nicest kid you will meet.”
Acheson, who will retain his offensive coordinator duties, will also tend to the offensive line.
And he likes what he sees in rising Grade 11 linemen Darwin Douglas and Dhillon Myers.
Claassen will head into his senior season as the power back, while shifty rising Grade 11 Caleb Spaner compliments the offensive backfield.
With the usual balance of two-way contributors, the defence will reflect the athleticism and compete level of the offence.
Dallas, Thomas and Bessette have the makings of a solid secondary with Hopwood a potential leader within the linebacking core.
Claassen’s value on the defensive side is substantial, and he could line up at an end spot and rush the passer. Mason Murphy, a people mover who has spent time at the community ranks, will be welcomed up front, potentially at the nose where he will check in at 6-3, 270 pounds.
“We feel like so far it’s been pretty seamless,” Acheson says of the lion’s share of last season’s JV juggernaut finding a permanent home at senior varsity with the rest of the rising seniors.
G.W. GRAHAM GRIZZLIES
Week 1 Sept. 6 at Vernon
Week 2 Sept. 13 at New Westminster
Week 3 Sept. 20 bye
Week 4 Sept. 27 at Centralia (Wash.)
Week 5 Oct. 4 at Frank Hurt
Week 6 Oct. 11 vs. Holy Cross
Week 7 Oct. 18 vs. Langley*
Week 8 Oct. 25 at Pitt Meadows*
Week 9 Nov. 1 at Robert Bateman*
(*-Indicates Eastern Conference league game)
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