VANCOUVER — How special can your special teams possibly be?
Well, with the playoff season here, it was hard to imagine a better performance from the sport’s oft-times under-valued third phase unit than the one turned in over the third quarter Saturday afternoon by Surrey’s No. 5-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers.
As part of a 23-point outburst in the frame, the Panthers book-ended a point-scoring frenzy with two kick-off returns for scores.
In between, they turned two fumble recoveries into touchdowns, and were even gifted an inadvertent safety after throwing an interception, all part of a stunning 36-7 win over the two-time Subway Bowl AAA finalist and No. 4-ranked New Westminster Hyacks in a quarterfinal game played at B.C. Place Stadium.
“I loved the special teams contributions today,” enthused Lord Tweedsmuir head coach Kurt Thornton, whose team beat the Hyacks for the second time this season. “We worked so hard on it, and in most of the games, it’s just part of the overall ebb and flow. But for us to return two kick-off for touchdowns, from two different kids, against a team like New Westminster is just awesome.”
Of course, the higher the stakes, the higher the contrast in comments from the opposition coach.
“I couldn’t have imagined a worse half of football, especially the third quarter,” said New West head coach Farhan Lalji. “Full credit to Lord Tweedsmuir. They played really well. But to lose a game based on two kickoff returns, and then a fumble on our own one-yard line was ridiculous.
“I couldn’t have imagined a bigger comedy of errors,” he added. “It was a tough way for our seniors to go out, with plays like that.”
The Hyacks opened the scoring, capping a drive to take a 7-0 lead after a 10-yard run by Deakon Young with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers weren’t able to finish any drives over the first two quarters with end-zone celebrations, yet kicker Jake Taylor booted a pair of field goals from 23 and 19 yards, the latter pulling Tweedsmuir to within 7-6 at the half.
Taylor, the team’s back-up kicker, was forced into duty after an injury in the second quarter to starting quarterback Terrel Jones, also the first-string kicker.
Haydn Stomperud then turned the game on its ear.
Fielding the opening kick-off of the second half at his own 15 yard line, Stomperud took it the distance, his 85-yard major making it 13-6.
Later in the quarter, a high snap eluded the grasp of Hyacks’ quarterback Andros Dancey, and the loose ball was eventually recovered 24 yards down field at the Hyacks’ one-yard line by the Panthers’ Dakota Lepine.
One play later, Tweedsmuir’s Key’shaun Dorsey, getting a chance to play fulltime under centre with Jones manning a receiver spot, called his own number and went over the top for a TD and a 20-6 lead.
On the Hyacks’ next possession, their nightmare continued when Dancey, in at quarterback, fumbled the ball and Stomperud of the Panthers recovered at the Hyacks’ 26-yard line.
Lord Tweedsmuir’s Dorsey, however, while trying to find a receiver in the end zone off a roll-out play, was picked off in the end zone by a Hyacks’ player who first took the ball out of the end zone, then stepped back, in the process conceding a safety to make it 22-7, and forcing his team to kick away the football.
That ensuing kick was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by the Panthers’ Tremel States-Jones and it gave Lord Tweedsmuir a 29-7 lead after three quarters of play.
For the record, after giving up the kick-off return to open the third quarter, the Panthers would go on to score 16 points off two fumble recoveries and the inadvertent safety.
Later, with 6:19 left in the game, States-Jones scored on a four-yard run to make the 36-7 final complete..
“Our plan was to swap quarterbacks,” Thornton said of alternating Jones and Dorsey, in part to take advantage of Jones’ receiving abilities and Dorsey’s roll-out game. “But Terrel got hurt before we could get that going. I thought Key’shaun did a great job managing the game.”
Lord Tweedsmuir’s 36 points were all scored in unanswered fashion.
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