VANCOUVER — Every football game has a story to tell, and as we prepare for Subway Bowl’s senior varsity Final Four semifinal Saturday under the dome at B.C. Place Stadium, we open our series of game previews by asking each of the head coaches to speak to the strengths of the team they will soon be lined up against.
We start at the Triple A round and examine Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. clash between the No. 2-ranked Vancouver College Fighting Irish and the No. 3-ranked St. Thomas More Knights of Burnaby.
This one, based on its annual long-standing non-conference September clashes alone, has great tradition.
Yet the level of mutual respect was especially impressive this season when the Irish beat the Knights 27-0 at Burnaby Lakes in a game STM called due to rash of injuries which made it unsafe for them to continue.
Afterwards, Vancouver College head coach Todd Bernett, 72 days ahead of their semifinal meeting, told Varsity Letters: “STM did their entire community proud tonight, both with their first half effort and with the courage to make the decision to call the game at half. I respect our rivalry, I understand why the game had to end at halftime, and I hope they get healthy… there is a damn good football team at that school, and with a few breaks and injuries healing, they are gonna be a tough team to deal with.”
Which brings us to the present.
This week, we asked the St. Thomas More coaching staff to address what they will be facing when they meet a juggernaut Irish team, currently playing at a level very few have reached since the turn of the century.
Said STM co-head coach and offensive coordinator Joe Adams of a group led by dynamic running back Daesaun Johnson: “Their offensive line is very good. They run inside zone better than anyone in B.C. As an offence, it’s important to have something to hang your hat on, an identity. Their offensive line has helped them establish that they are an inside-zone team and they are very good at it. They are all very athletic, very explosive and play with a chip. They do what they do very well. They execute their offence”
As for the defence, which has allowed a grand total of 13 points through the months of October and November?
“Defensively, they are very good at stopping the run inside the tackles, that is very much about attitude and playing hard-nosed football,” continued Adams, who referenced lineman Ryan Hsiao, linebacker Matt Hoag and safety Jason Soriano as among the group’s linchpin players. All three were named Subway Bowl provincial all-stars with Soriano named Triple A’s B.C. Player of the Year.
“You have to take something away from every team that you play against, and VC’s defence has made it clear that they want to prevent you from running between the tackles.”
And is there one player Adams feel truly embodies the Vancouver College team in 2019?
No surprise here. He saw what ever other coach who faced the Irish saw this season.
“Jason Soriano is very good, very athletic,” he said of a player who lines up as a receiver, quarterback and running back, as well as a free safety. “He has the ability to make an explosive play at any moment.”
Of course we asked the same questions of the Irish coaching staff, and head man Bernett was happy to share his thoughts.
“For STM, I think the greatest strength they possess is their ability to overcome adversity. You can see it as you watch video of them… they often bounce back from turnovers, loss of downs, giving up points, whatever… they bounce back with a strong response from the next unit on the field. It’s why they have won so many competitive games and had a surge of momentum that’s been building all season.”
And the one player on the opposition sideline who best embodies what the Knights are all about?
Interestingly enough, Bernett looked outside the box a bit, and when you’ve been around as long as he has, you even see the evolution in opposition high school players over the years as they make the transition to coaching.
“For an STM player who personifies the team, they actually remind me of a coach on their staff: Jared Power,” begins Bernett of the Knights 2004 grad and current defensive coordinator.
“I coached against Jared 16 years ago… I remember how he competed. I have coached against and with Jared, and I experienced his attention to detail and preparation. I see his influence on this team because they are intense and prepared every week. They play very consistently.”
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