The best-kept secret in B.C. high school football is getting on a southbound bus Friday morning headed for B.C. Place Stadium and Saturday’s quarterfinal stage of the 2018 Subway Bowl playoffs.
“The schools (universities) should be lining up for this guy,” Prince George Secondary offensive coordinator Brett Morrow said Thursday morning when asked Braden Reed, the school’s flex-bone triple-option quarterback, who will lead the injury-riddled Polars into a Double A clash against Surrey’s Western Conference champion Holy Cross Crusaders.
“I mean, how many guys are going to go out there, carry 40 times, get 14 tackles on defence and even play on special teams,” Morrow continued of Reed who led all of B.C. high school football over the regular season by averaging 198 rushing yards per game and scoring 19 touchdowns. “He never leaves the field.”
Just based on his old-school ability to be a genuine workhorse back warrants more attention than the limited number of U Sports schools currently showing an interest.
Yet there is more to the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Reed than simply his ability to remain on the field for every snap through all three phases.
In the Polars’ dynamic 45-14 opening-round Subway Bowl playoff win over visiting South Kamloops last week at Masich Stadium, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Reed carried 40 times for 272 yards and five touchdowns, giving him, through seven games, 1,460 yards on 135 carries with 24 touchdowns.
Those are averages of 209 yards per game, 10.8 yards per carry, and 3.4 touchdowns per game.
Morrow, who took a season off from coaching in 2017, says he’s seen a very different Reed upon his return.
“I don’t know where all of that added speed came from,” Morrow joked “But Braden is just a natural athlete. He’s a smart kid. So when he went from being a running back to quarterback, he’s been able to make all of these reads on the ends and the outside backers.”
The Polars’ flex-bone triple-option offence has been very effective all season, yet facing the dynamic skill of Holy Cross, and taking into consideration the starring pieces the Polars have lost in recent weeks, it’s hard to know how things will turn once the game kicks off at high noon Saturday.
On the first drive of last week’s game against South Kamloops, starting fullback Gavin Murray, who has rushed for 75 yards a game this season and scored eight touchdowns in the process, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Earlier in the year, one of the scheme’s two wing players, Gage Ridland, broke his collarbone.
It’s all added up to a juggling act for head coach Pat Bonnett, who has moved Braden Michell, the lone healthy starting wing player, into the fullback role. Two receivers have since shifted into the wing spots.
“So we are decimated,” Morrow said, “but we’ll come in and try to get what we can. If we can’t move the ball early, it’s going to be a long day.”
So much of the team’s success will hinge on the ability of its athletic but under-sized offensive line, which will line up Saturday averaging a shade over 6-feet and 210 pounds.
Sasha Gajic, Maximos Vohar, Joshua Gabriel, Zack Whitfield and converted receiver Matt Shore are some of those players.
“With the flex-bone, it’s all about getting down field quickly and sealing,” says Morrow.
Off course the elephant in the room can’t be ignored: Until Northern Conference teams start winning Subway Bowl games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, the doubters are always going to doubt.
Yet as all of that pertains to Braden Reed, all you have to do is think back to UBC’s 2010 incoming class of recruits.
Turns out that the best kid in the entire class was player no one was talking about.
In fact Prince George-Kelly Road’s Brandon Deschamps wasn’t even his high school team’s leading rusher.
Yet just to prove that a good player can come from anywhere, it’s hard to imagine the ‘Birds winning the 2015 Vanier Cup national title without the guy nicknamed ‘Banger’ lining up in the offensive backfield behind quarterback Michael O’Connor.
“We think Braden’s a special kid,” says Morrow. “He’s a guy who lives out in the country with mom and dad and he’s an honour roll student, too.”
Seems almost too good to be true.
And on Saturday, both Braden Reed and the Polars will have their biggest stage of the season.
And who knows, after this weekend, those university coaches might actually start to get in line.
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