VANCOUVER — Early in the first half of Saturday’s Subway Bowl B.C. junior varsity AAA championship final, Mt. Douglas Rams’ rangy linebacker Marino Dujela cursed his hands and wondered what he would have to do to make the first interception of his entire football career.
A pass from Lord Tweedsmuir quarterback McCord Leeson was right there for the taking, but the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Dujela had it go right through his hands.
On the very next snap, however, the Grade 10 Dujela made up for it, this time snaring a pick and setting up his quarterback, Hunter Swift, for a nine-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Reuther and a 21-7 lead.
On the day, after that near-miss, Dujela would go on to collect three interceptions, the second snuffing a dangerous Tweedy drive late in the opening half, and the third leading to late, clock-eating touchdown drive as the Rams beat their Surrey rivals 41-21 for their first provincial JV title in almost a decade.
“He is a kid who has come to practice every day and just put out tremendous effort,” said Rams’ head coach Mark Townsend. “So to be rewarded on the biggest stage, in a championship game, and to have all of those picks… it’s just so fantastic for Marino.”
Mt. Douglas finished with five interceptions on the day.
“I just really wanted that first one because it would have been the first interception of my career,” said Dujela, later picked the game’s top lineman. “But I don’t know what was going on today. I felt like it was just work. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The timeliness of that first pick couldn’t be overstated.
Lord Tweedsmuir opened the scoring on a one-yard run by Reggie Elie, and Rams’ running back Miltiadis Koulelis later equalized on a seven-yard run.
Swift, also the senior varsity pivot, threw a 10-yard strike to Giovanni Linuzzi, which the latter also converted for a 14-7 lead after the first quarter.
Yet the Dujela pick and subsequent touchdown for a two-score lead was just enough of a tipping point to keep the talented and explosive Panthers off balance and allow the Rams’ to author the winning script.
Just before the half, Lord Tweedsmuir quarterback Leeson scored on a one-yard keeper to narrow the score to 21-14, but Mt. Douglas, energized by its rally, got that one right back on a penalty-aided drive.
Swift’s big connection to Reuther wound up being scrimmaged at the LT eight-yard line after a Tweedsmuir penalty was tacked onto the play.
On the very next snap, Koulelis took it in for a 28-14 lead with 2:06 left to the half.
Incredibly, with under one minute remaining in the first half, Dujela stopped another Lord Tweedsmuir drive when his second pick of the contest ended a Tweedsmuir drive 25 yards from the end zone.
Dujela’s third pick of the game gave his team the ball at its own 32-yard line midway through the third quarter, and led to a long, clock-eating drive which culminated with Koulelis’ third score of a game off a one-yard run.
Kainin McNay on a one-yard run with 7:18 left in the game made it 40-14, before Tweedsmuir’s Jace Atkinson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass to round out the scoring with 3:43 remaining.
“Our guys, the way they hung together as a team, and the chemistry of this group of young men, and the way they bond had a definite trickle down effect on the field,” said Townsend. “Tweedsmuir, give them credit, what a team of warriors. They battled hard right to the end.”
Mt. Douglas last won a junior varsity title in 2010, when it topped Vancouver College, and that core of that team eventually became the heart-and-soul of the Rams’ 2012 senior varsity Subway Bowl champions, considered one of the top teams in B.C. high school football history.
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