VANCOUVER — The better Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves get at being predictable, the tougher they seem to be to stop, and that was especially true Saturday as the calendar continued to inch towards December.
The Wolves made a statement in the trenches and played brilliantly off of that effect, beating Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs 41-19 to earn a berth in next week’s Subway Bowl B.C. Coastal AA championship final against North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles.
“It’s just a matter of ‘Can you line up and stop it,’” said Bateman head coach David Mills, whose program has reached a season-ending championship for the second time in program history, and its first since losing to Vernon in the 2018 final.
“We don’t change the playbook too much week to week, but the key is to try and execute it better than the other team can execute its defence. And tonight it was a really strong performance.”
So much so that the Wolves out-gained the Bulldogs 493 yards to 259, including 190-to-89 in rushing yards.
Playing behind a well-synched offensive line, running back Micah Barker and quarterback Nolan Watrin were the keystones who kept the Barsby defence on their heels all game.
“They are tough guys up front and they do what they do, they don’t vary a lot,” said John Barsby head coach Rob Stevenson, after Watrin passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 61 more yards and two touchdowns, and Barker set the table with 10 carries for 110 yards. “If you try and out-number them in the box, they can pass well, too, so it’s a very frustrating offence to play against.”
The Timberwolves opened the scoring on their first drive as Watrin called his own number from a yard out for a 7-0 lead.
With 3:29 left in the opening quarter, Bateman’s Dallas Standcumbe recovered a fumble at his own 27. Barker then peeled off a 68-yard run down to the Bulldogs’ two-yard line where Watrin capped things again with a keeper for a 13-0 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the frame.
“It’s that thunder-and-lighting thing,” said Mills of the pair. “Just when you think we’re going inside to No. 27 (Barker), all of a sudden No. 3 (Watrin) has the ball on the outside. Or any of our other receivers. And then today Taejshon Catlin with a rushing touchdown, and then Austen Harter with a rushing touchdown. It was a great team win today.”
Key among the numbers? Watrin averaging 9.7 yards-per-completion and Barker averaging 11 yards per carry.
“I have to credit my O-line, they are so amazing and they set me up for success every play,” said Barker.
The Barsby passing game, however, had its moments and pivot Parker Moscrip threw his first of two touchdown passes to receiver Cesare Rednour-Bruckman, this one from 42 yards to cut it to 14-7.
Before the half, Watrin threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Braeden Tuchscherer for a 20-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Bateman got to the Barsby goal line and after a number of snaps, finally scored on Catlin’s one-yard run. Austin Harter rushed for the two-point conversion and a 28-7 lead.
Barsby’s Moscrip went 26 yards to Rednour-Bruckman to make it 28-13, but the Wolves answered in the fourth quarter with a 27-yard strike from Watrin to AJ Nguyen for a 34-13 advantage.
Harter’s one-yard touchdown run wrapped up the scoring for Bateman, who led 41-13.
With 26 seconds left, Barsby fullback Ryder Mount carried in from five yards to make the 41-19 final complete.
Summed Barsby’s Stevenson afterwards: “Bateman played complete football and we played incomplete football. They took care of the line of scrimmage and it’s been their recipe all year. You can’t allow 95-yard, clock-eating drives.”
From Robert Bateman’s perspective, predictability never looked better.
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