VANCOUVER — Vancouver College’s Daesaun Johnson rushed for three first-half touchdowns, and an Irish defence which has been near impenetrable the past two months simply lived up to form, seemingly impervious to the rising stakes and elevated atmosphere that come with the semifinal round of the Subway Bowl Triple-A playoffs.
The Irish topped Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Knights 37-8 under the dome at B.C. Place Stadium in a contest which was actually more decisive than the final score indicated, thus earning a berth in next week’s B.C. final against Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers.
So suffocating was the Irish defence on Saturday, and so dangerous was its running game, that it genuinely felt immaterial which of B.C.’s top teams they happened to be playing.
“We met a vastly-superior opponent tonight, there is no other way of putting it,” said STM head coach Steve De Lazzari. “They are fast and physical, they are well-coached, and all of that showed. We battled as much as we could, but we struggled moving the ball on offence and they obviously had some big success with some of their runs.”
Johnson looked unstoppable at times and the purpose with which he ran could not be misunderstood on the first of his three first-half rushing touchdowns.
Breaking multiple St. Thomas More tackles with the goal line in his sights, Johnson battled for each and every one of the 12 yards he gained to give the Irish an eventual 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Although St. Thomas More’s Gabe Nacario later picked off a pass by Irish quarterback Alex Nyvlt deep in Knights’ territory, Johnson was able to soon answer back with another major, capping an Irish drive with a blistering 14-yard run and a 13-0 lead just over three minutes into the second quarter.
Johnson capped off another drive, this one just before halftime, when he took a hand-off and went into the end zone untouched from nine yards away to make it 20-0.
Midway through the third quarter, quarterback Alex Nyvlt scored on a one-yard run, and later running back Raf Schincariol did likewise on a ferocious 55-yard run of his own.
Ben Kolb capped the Irish scoring when he booted a 42-yard field goal.
“It was exactly what I thought we’d see defensively from STM,” said Irish head coach Todd Bernett, whose program last won the title in 2010. “They were very gritty and tough and determined at the point of attack. We had to take things in small chunks and we did. I thought we were patient and also, I was excited to watch our D. They held down the fort for us until we figured a few things out and popped a few big plays.”
Still, the no-quit Knights managed to score against the run of play.
Quarterback Anthony De Lazzari delivered a pass to Nacario, who simply refused to get beaten on the ball by an Irish defensive back.
Nacario battled hard, eventual ripping the ball free as he crossed the goal line to break the Irish’s bid for a sixth shutout this season.
The Irish’s Johnson hasn’t looked sharper or more determined this season. He finished carrying 13 times for 94 yards, but had just one carry in the second-half before giving way to the rest of the Irish’s deep cadre of backs. Top Irish receiver and B.C. Triple A Player of the Year Jason Soriano also rested on offence over the second half.
Raf Schincariol carried seven times for 86 yards.
Quarterback Nyvlt was 5-of-6 for 70 yards, including a pair of completions to Gabe Botelho who finished with 39 yards.
Colin Dolynski led a vast array of Irish tacklers with nine tackles. Jackson Findlay and Matt Hoag had seven apiece while Dennis Stassinopoulos had six. Dimitri Grigg added two sacks.
The contest marked the 57th time Vancouver College and St. Thomas More have met in senior varsity gridiron competition.
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