VANCOUVER — It’s not the easiest club to gain membership in, yet Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies just keep playing football like they’re charter members of the B.C. Triple-A’s old-guard elite.
In just its first year at the province’s largest tier, the Grizzlies brought a game plan and a purpose to B.C. Place Stadium on Saturday as the Subway Bowl B.C. Triple A Coastal championships reached the semifinal stage.
And with a defence determined to put rival Centennial’s dynamic offence between a rock and a hard place, G.W. Graham extracted a 19-0 win over the Coquitlam’s Centaurs, in the process punching their tickets into next weekend’s championship final against the winner of Saturday’s late semifinal between Terry Fox and Notre Dame.
“This feels a lot like it has all year… making history,” explained G.W. Graham head coach Luke Acheson of a team attempting to win a AAA title in its first year at the tier.
“(Centennial) made you really nervous with a really dynamic back field and that was the key all week, stopping No. 1,” said Acheson of Centennial running back Ziad Sabry, the AAA Offensive MVP. “It was a real focus to keep him under wraps and bottled up.”
And so while the Grizzlies’ defence did its job from start to finish en route to pitching a shutout, G.W. Graham stayed patient and cashed in when opportunities presented themselves.
The Grizzlies took a 9-0 lead into the break after a disjointed opening half by both teams in which several big plays were left to stall between the 20-yard lines.
A safety put the Chilliwack squad ahead 2-0 before they hit on a big fourth-down play.
“We were in an area of the field where it’s not that beneficial to punt so we decided to go for it and we hit it,” said Acheson of quarterback Lucas Feaver’s 31-yard scoring strike to Tyson Kelly. “We added a little wrinkle to get him free and any time you get the ball in Tyson Kelly’s hands, it’s dangerous.”
Try as it might, Centennial, coming off its huge win last week against Vancouver College was just never able to build an offensive rhythm.
“For our kids, the growth and development that has happened over the year has been massive,” said Centaurs’ offensive coordinator Guilio Caravatta. “And when you get to this stage, you are right in the nitty gritty.. and (G.W. Graham) played a great football game today. They were very, very good on the line of scrimmage, and they took away Ziad early. And we missed on a couple of throws that could have turned things around. But that is part of the growth and development.”
Sabry had 12 carries 46 yards and also added eight tackles on defence.
The Grizzlies put together a late scoring drive set up by Sam Mannes’ key 30-yard run, and capped by fullback Gage O’Neill’s three-yard TD run with 3:36 remaining.
Centennial’s Keyshawn Beswick made an amazing 45-yard catch between a pair of GWG defenders to give Centennial some hope at the Grizzlies’ 30-yard line with 2:43 left.
The Grizzlies’ Nick Beck, however, came up with an interception late to seal the shutout win.
“For us, (head) coach Dino (Geremia) always brings a phenomenal offence so we needed to be ready for everything,” said GWG defensive coordinator Ian Parks. “We just kept rolling with lots of good depth, and coming from Double-A to Triple-A, the guys have a chip on their shoulder and they want to prove to everyone in the province that they are just as good as everybody. That is our test, where we want to get to.”
Centennial’s season was a massive success, coming from three straight winless seasons before the pandemic to come within a win of a season-ending Subway Bowl game at B.C. Place.
“To be able to give them this experience, that was the biggest thing for us,” Caravatta said. “Dino and the other coaches have done such an amazing job and it all solidifies what we’ve said to them all year, that if you work hard and prepare, good things can happen, and once we started to make that turn, things really started to scale. In the end, we just ran out of gas.”
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