VANCOUVER — A learned football sage pointed out earlier this week that a unique B.C. high school football era will be coming to an end Saturday at B.C. Place Stadium when the Mt. Douglas Rams and the New Westmintser Hyacks meet at 7 p.m. to decide the 2018 Subway Bowl B.C. Triple A champion.
There really isn’t a limit on how long a pair of high school football programs can carry on a rivalry, but when a pair of players create one that can last four full seasons, then you know you have something special.
Mt. Douglas quarterback Gideone Kremler and New Westminster quarterback Kinsale Philip are, of course, the two central characters.
And ever since their shared ninth grade seasons back in 2015, they have played a commanding role in the fortunes of their respective football teams.
Yet along the way, through crossed paths, mutual acquaintances and most of all, a shared respect, they have actually become good friends.
Heading into the biggest game of the season, the plot lines were already dramatic enough.
On one side Philip closing out his high school career by attempting to lead his Hyacks to back-to-back B.C. senior varsity championships.
And on the other Kremler, who for a large part of his high school career has battled a knee injury and is now looking for the book-end title to the one he led his team to in 2015 as a mere ninth grader.
Yet each player’s impact also extends in a very significant way to the defensive side of the ball, where the linebacker Philip and the safety Kremler deliver their hits, regardless of friendship, clean but extremely hard.
“He gave me a good one, once,” laughs Kremler of a game played at New West’s Mercer Stadium. “I threw a touchdown on the play, so I couldn’t complain too much. We are about playing the game with respect and if you give a hundred per cent, I can’t bash you for it.
“There’s most likely going to be some friendly chatter, then we’ll get back to the huddle.”
KINSALE AND GIDEONE: THEIR HISTORY 101
If Philip and Kremler didn’t know each other back in 2015, they truly became aware of each other on the final day of that season.
It was Dec. 5, and Subway Bowl’s ambitious schedule of B.C. title games at various tiers had created a situation where the Rams had qualified for both the junior varsity AAA final, and the senior varsity AAA final.
Kremler, of course, quarterbacked both games.
In the JV final, he came up against a New Westminster team quarterbacked by Philip and one that would go on to beat his Rams 48-29.
Kremler rested while Carson Graham beat Abbotsford 53-24 in B.C. Double A senior varsity final, then took to the field for the senior Triple A contest where in one of the most amazing feats in provincial high school sports history, the Grade 9 quarterback led his team past Vancouver College 34-17.
That day was a springboard to three gritty seasons to follow, including a 2016 campaign which has proven to be the only one in which the two did not win a Subway Bowl title.
Philip’s Hyacks, however, learned some valuable lessons en route to a 20-14 senior varsity semifinal loss to the Notre Dame Jugglers.
Kremler, on the other hand, had hurt his knee earlier in the season, and although he was able to play for both Mt. Douglas teams, he wasn’t able to be at his best. The Rams’ seniors lost 34-25 in the quarterfinals to eventual champ Terry Fox, while the juniors fell 17-14 to Lord Tweedsmuir in the B.C. final.
How different a team was Mt. Douglas without him that year?
Kremler sat out an Oct. 21 conference game at New Westminster, out after hurting his knee in a JV game, and the Hyacks won 45-19.
From a New West perspective, Philip’s steady build from a JV title to a senior Final Four had him ready to lead as a Grade 11 back in 2017.
And despite the pressure-packed expectations which dogged the team all season, he led the Hyacks to their dramatic senior varsity title-game win over Terry Fox.
Yet all three of New Westminster’s playoff victories a year ago came by less than a touchdown, including its quarterfinal 19-14 win over Mt. Douglas, a game in which the Hyacks hounded Kremler into just 22-of-39 passing and one touchdown.
This season has been a litmus test for both.
While Kremler finally seemed to gain his full health midway through the season, leading a Rams’ renaissance, Philip endured the first serious injury of his career, a broken foot which he gutted through and eventually returned from, bringing with him a new appreciation for what it means to play the game both love so much.
WEEKEND AT GIDEONE’S
“The thing about Gideone’s house, is that they always have people over,” laughs Philip. “You go over to visit and his mom and dad are so welcoming. It’s a family that has all the right values and everyone is so respectful. And Gideone is a really chill guy, a genuine person. In fact, the last time I was over there, he picked me up from the ferry and we just hung out.”
All of this happened in the latter part of the summer when Philip, who already knew Rams’ players like Dante Carbone and Sebastian Hansen, decided to reach out to his fellow quarterback and ask if he was going to attend the J.C. Boice Quarterback Camp.
“In Grade 9, 10 and 11 we were rivals who hadn’t gotten to know each other outside of football,” begins Kremler. “But we knew each other because of our intense play. He was coming over to the Island for a camp and he needed somewhere to stay, so he crashed at my house.”
Adds Philip: “For two straight days we were partners in every drill, so I slept over and we talked about quarterback stuff and everything else.”
And at the end of the camp, the pair cooled off by diving into nearby Langford Lake for a swim.
“I think one of the reasons I respect him and get along with him outside of football is that I think we both have leadership qualities that a lot of quarterbacks our age don’t have,” says Kremler. “And one of the reasons we are both playing in the championship game is we both respect how football is a brotherhood and a family. His team respects him for that, and my team respects me for the same reason.”
COACHES GET THE FINAL WORD
As much as the pair are known for igniting a dynamic pair of offences, Gideone Kremler and Kinsale Philip are also terrific next-level players as defenders.
“When you watch them play, they can both spin it,” says Hyacks head coach Farhan Lalji of each’s passing prowess, “but they both have defensive mentalities.”
Philip’s value to the Hyacks’ defence as a linebacker is substantial.
“Kinsale, to me, is their undisputed leader,” says Rams’ head coach Mark Townsend. “And that is on both sides of the ball. He is such a great linebacker.”
And Kremler, while playing with the tag of a strong safety, showed his versatility last weekend by morphing into a linebacking role as the Rams had just enough fourth-quarter red-zone acumen to hold off the Vancouver College Fighting Irish.
“If you looked at Gideone running it, he was a safety who was getting closer and closer to the box,” continued Lalji of Kremler’s adaptability over that very stretch of extended goal-line snaps against the Irish. “He actually plays like an inside linebacker so both of these guys understand the flow of the game. There are a lot of similarities in the way they play.”
So much so that the mere fact they played for different football teams was never going to get in the way of this unique friendship.
“When I was driving him back to the ferry terminal, I was thinking about how we got to know each other and were able to gel on some levels that I didn’t think we would,” Kremler added.
Last week, during the semifinals, Kremler’s mom bumped into Philip and gave him a big hug.
Of course, there is the small matter of championship football game to play on Saturday.
And for that, the two head coaches get the final word.
Said Mt. Douglas’ Townsend playfully: “I think that these are two respectful guys and I think both Kinsale and Gideone know their boundaries.”
Added New Westminster’s Lalji in a light-hearted yet serious tone: “I said to Kinsale ‘Don’t give Gideone the game plan.’”
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