We’ve gone final on the 2018 B.C. high school football season. New champions were crowned on Subway Saturday at B.C. Place. Here’s game reports for all five!
MT. DOUGLAS 48 NEW WESTMINSTER 24
VANCOUVER — When he wrote the first few chapters of a story that would chronicle a very special era in Mt. Douglas Rams football history, Gideone Kremler was a little too young to understand just what it was that he had started.
But it was the pages of adversity in the middle of that journey which made him appreciate just how satisfying it was to put both an exclamation mark and an opposing book-end on a football fairy-tale that Saturday achieved a championship ending.
“To end it the same way we started it is nothing more than a blessing,” Kremler said Saturday night at B.C. Place Stadium following the Rams’ 48-24 senior AAA Subway Bowl-title win over the defending champion New Westminster Hyacks. “I think the future has a way of aligning itself with things that happen. We battled some adversity to begin the season and a lot of guys manned up and gave everything they had to this team. And I think the scoreboard really show it.”
Kremler, of course, had led Mt Douglas to its last senior varsity title, when as a fearless Grade 9 he piloted the Rams to a 34-17 win over Vancouver College.
That win was Mt. Douglas’ fourth in five seasons and also marked their fifth straight championship game appearance.
Yet for two straight seasons they were absent from the final.
It was a stretch where Kremler battled knee issues and the team as a whole went through its own kind of growing pains.
“We’re a family, and families fight and families have struggles,” said Kremler. “And families ultimately work through every problem they have. Otherwise they wouldn’t be a family.”
Yet as we’ve chronicled the confluence of factors that led to the late-season resurgence of both the Rams and Hyacks in 2018, Saturday’s game left no doubt that Mt. Douglas has gained a separation from the rest of the pack that was on a different level.
“They were better than we were, they were more physical than we were, they executed their game-plan better and they out-coached us,” said Hyacks head coach Farhan Lalji afterwards. “There was no fortune. There was nothing, They just played better.
“We kept fighting,” Lalji continued, “but they were able to get their guys in space and our offence never got untracked. It was herky-jerky at best and you have to give them credit.”
Of course the Victoria squad wasn’t perfectly clean.
Kremler’s errant lateral early in the first quarter was recovered by New West’s Shaye Rathjen, and not too long afterwards, Hyacks’ quarterback Kinsale Philip took it into the end zone from five yards out to open the scoring at 6-0.
“We didn’t get off to the start we wanted but we knew this would be a real challenge,” said Rams’ head coach Mark Townsend. “They were playing exceptional football with their win over Terry Fox last week, and it just made us focus that much more. We got behind early but it’s a long game and we were going to play all four quarters.”
The rest of the way was more about the real Mt. Douglas Rams.
Before the quarter was up, Kremler had rushed for a pair of scores. First, he took it in from two yards out, then after the Hyacks fumbled away the ensuing kick-off, the Rams’ Glen Rose recovered, setting the stage for a one-yard Kremler TD run and a 14-6 lead.
Joe Lucas hauled in a 58-yard pass from Kremler who then layered a 10-yard TD strike to Sebastian Hansen for a 21-6 lead.
The Rams were looking to put New Westminster away with another major before the break, but that’s when the Hyacks’ Taran Birdi returned the ensuing kick-off 75 yards for a major, cutting the Rams lead to 21-12 at halftime.
Lalji referenced his team’s herky-jerky nature on offence, and on the evening, New Westminster never got into the kind of groove in which it was consistently moving the sticks down field.
In the first half, it was touchdowns off a fumble deep in the Rams end, and off a kick-off return.
In the second half, it was a brilliant takeaway strip by Matthew Lalim at the Rams’ 17 which later set up his own 20-yard TD catch at the back of the end zone on a perfectly delivered ball by Philip.
Even New West’s final touchdown, a nine-yard Broxx Comia run, was set up by a 45-yard kick-off return by Michael Kingsley.
“Our defence was unreal,” said Townsend who gave props top defensive coordinator Tom Fong for his schemes. “The key was stopping that powerful and high-octane run game.”
The rest of Mt. Douglas’ scores?
Hansen’s eight-yard run, Gideone Kremler’s 19-yard rushing major, his third of the game, brother Zairech Kremler’s two-yard run, and finally, Sam Mosky with a 50-yard run, accounted for the team’s second-half scoring.
Still, the Rams’ talented offence needed to have its maestro at the peak of his powers in order to beat New Westminster, and with his legs now 100 per cent beneath him, there was no dancing around the fact that he was the game’s MVP.
“They didn’t run different things,” said Lalji of the Rams. “They ran quarterback-counter which we practiced for all week. But we didn’t get off blocks well enough and they took advantage of it.
“(Kremler), he not like an athletic quarterback,” Lalji began, speaking specifically to stylistic way in which Kremler approaches the running part of his game, and not in any way suggesting that the pivot is not athletic. “He plays like a running back when he carries the ball.
“It’s been a storybook career for him,” Lalji continued. “He starts with a championship in Grade 9 and he ends it with one in Grade 12.”
Of course, ask him to compare and contrast each of the book-end championships and the now-wiser Kremler comes clean.
“It’s kind of crazy, but when I was in Grade 9, it was just another provincial game,” Kremler said Saturday, basking in the afterglow of the biggest victory of his career thus far. “Once you get into this league and you see how truly competitive senior varsity football can, it’s a big deal to come out and dominate in a championship game.
“It shows the mental fortitude all of these guys have, and the strength they all have inside them.”
VERNON 47 ROBERT BATEMAN 12
VANCOUVER — It haD been a decade in the works and filled with heartbreak, but Sean Smith was never going to give up on his Vernon Panthers.
And on Saturday, when the Panthers finally delivered, winning the Subway Bowl senior varsity Double A championship with a convincing 47-12 victory over Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves, Smith couldn’t put the entirety of the battle into proper perspective without referencing one of the game’s most stoic teams.
“When I hear people talking about how the Buffalo Bills lost all of those Super Bowls, I always tell them how much work it is just to get to a championship game,” said Smith, whose first provincial success came back in 2011 when he took the unheralded Panthers to the provincial AA semifinals.
“You have to beat a lot of good coaches and a lot of good teams and everything has to fall your way, and it did for us this year,” said Smith, whose team went 10-1 overall and suffered its only loss to then-No. 2 AAA Terry Fox back in mid-September. “It’s just taken a tremendous amount of work from so many people, coaches and players, to get here today.”
The Panthers of recent vintage knew much heartbreak.
In 2016 they loss in the B.C. title game to the Seaquam Seahawks. Last season, while their junior varsity team won a title, the senior varsity lost over the final minute in the semifinals to Abbotsford.
On Saturday, however, they wanted to leave no doubt that they were due.
And running back Charles Lemay, Double A football’s Player of the Year, was the living, breathing embodiment of it all, rushing for the team’s first five touchdowns to give Vernon a 36-0 halftime lead.
“We were all nervous but we knew if we all came out and were able to punch them in the mouth right away we would get the win,” he said figuratively of what his outburst equaled. “So that’s what we did.”
On Vernon’s first play from scrimmage, Lemay took a hand-off on a draw play, and went up the middle before breaking free for a 90-yard touchdown.
Lemay’s nose for the end zone in the red zone was also clear as he rushed for majors from four and then six yards for a 21-0 lead.
Just over three minutes before halftime, Lemay scored on another six-yard run for a 28-0 lead, then rushed for his fifth major of the game in half’s final seconds from 36 yards for a 34-0 lead.
“We’ve been calling ourselves The Machine lately,” said Smith, “and we’re all moving parts playing in tune. Today was no different.”
The offensive line, which included the likes of centre Brady Szeman along with Jackson Thomas, Liam Alder, Nathan Vasconcelos and AJ Maher were spectacular working in concert with Lemay.
“We talked about the offensive line at the start of the season and it being a weakness, but as the season went along it became a real strength,” said Smith.
The defensive line and secondary also came to play, especially over an opening half in which they were able to help keep talented Bateman quarterback Logan McDonald off his rhythm.
Keal Black, Trey Defoor, Liam Reid and Maher were among the front four able to get good pressure on the pivot.
Bateman head coach David Mills admitted his team had a rough start
“That’s about as bad a first half as you could ever have in a championship game,” said Mills. “Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. But you have to credit Vernon. They are an outstanding team. We settled down in the second half, and I am really proud of our guys.”
Vernon quarterback Thomas Hyett threw touchdowns of 15 yards to Caden Danbrook and 55 yards to Zach Smith in the second half.
Bateman’s McDonald, picked the game’s top back, threw touchdowns of 10 yards to Markus Rauch and 19 yards to Ryan Sztuhar. In addition to his five touchdowns, Lemay cemented the margin of victory with back-to-back interceptions in the final 2:30 of play.
KELOWNA 38 BELMONT 12
VANCOUVER — The Kelowna Owls’ response to a tight first-half with Victoria’s Belmont Bulldogs in the B.C. AAA junior varsity final?
If the Okanagan powers wanted to take home the school’s first-ever Subway Bowl title at any tier or age division, they were going to have to take it.
So take it they did.
Leading 14-12 heading into the second half, defensive back Noah Gross made an end-zone interception, then capped the very same drive with a six-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Nathan Beauchemin for a 21-12 lead.
Not too soon afterwards, Owls’ Kieran Koltun scooped up an errant lateral by the Bulldogs at the Belmont 26-yard line, and from their, it was Beauchemin calling his own number from seven yards out for the major that made it 28-12.
In the fourth, Beauchemin went 22 yards to Gross for the score, and when Risto Zimmer booted a 30-yard field goal, the 38-12 victory was complete.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the Bulldogs took the game’s first lead when Riley Berfelo hauled in a 27-yard touchdown off a screen from quarterback Riley Bowles 3:34 into the second.
Kelowna answered to take a 7-6 lead less than a minute later, running back Caeleb Schlatter finding the end-zone on a 38-yard scamper.
Berfelo’s interception, however, gave his Bulldogs the ball at its own 13-yard line. From there, Bowles led his team down the field, delivering a 23-yard touchdown strike to Beaudry Payliss 1:23 before the half.
The Owls, however, made the small window of remaining time in the half work to their favour, Beauchemin connecting with receiver Nick Tonogai on a 25-yard touchdown just seven seconds before intermission for a 14-12 lead.
G.W. GRAHAM 69 WINDSOR 27
VANCOUVER — It was the highest scoring championship final at any level in the history of B.C. high school football.
And fittingly, it starred a young kid who seems destined for great things.
“The kids start yelling ‘dance studio’ when he’s breaking tackles and moving laterally across the field,” G.W. Graham head coach Laurie Smith said of his 6-foot-4, 220-pound Grade 10 receiver Logan Buchwitz, who scored an amazing seven touchdowns as part of a 69-27 win over North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes in the B.C. Double A Subway Bowl junior varsity football final. “He was just pushing kids out of the way with that big straight arm of his.”
The 96 combined points surpassed the 85 combined points from the 2014 senior varsity Triple-A final when South Delta beat Mt. Douglas 55-30.
The highest scoring junior varsity final prior to Saturday was 2009’s AA title game when Mt. Douglas defeated Mission 61-21.
Buchwitz came into the game with 49 total touchdowns this season between JV and senior varsity, then proceeded to have the most prodigious game of his high school career to finish with 56.
On the team’s first play from scrimmage, he hauled in a 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Grayson Frick, and from that point, both he and the Grizz were off to the races.
Buchwitz scored four touchdowns in the first half, then scored three of his team’s four majors in the second half as G.W. Graham managed to shut out the Dukes over the final two quarters.
Buchwitz’s one-yard run made it 46-27 early in the third, then after Michael Hopwood made a one-yard TD catch off a Frick pass, he closed things out with both a 12-yard scoring run late in the third, and then a 55-yard major off a shovel pass in which he broke five tackles in a highlight-reel dance through the Windsor defence.
“It was great being out there today,” smiled the soft-spoken Buchwitz. “My adrenaline was just going. I was in the moment. But I have to thank my linemen because none of this happens today without them.”
It seemed fitting that Buchwitz would ignite the highest-scoring championship game at any level of B.C. high school football with such early fireworks.
And after his 70-yard opening salvo, both teams got into offensive gear.
The Dukes looked like they were ready with an immediate answer after a 27-yard completion on the next series got Windsor down to the Grizzlies’ three-yard line, however quarterback Alek Giragosian’s pass was picked off at the goal line by linebacker Nick Beck and returned to the 22-yard line.
A few plays later, running back Caleb Spaner took a handoff and scored on a 45-yard run for a 12-0 lead.
Giragosian got half of that deficit back when he scored on a two-yard run with 4:03 left in the opening frame.
And Windsor even recovered the ensuing onside kick with four minutes remaining.
However Spaner answered with a 73-yard touchdown run. Buchwitz’s two-point covert run made it 20-6, and Buchwitz followed with a 49-yard scoring catch from Frick for a 27-6 lead.
“It has really come together and I feel like we deserve this,” said Frick. “(Logan) and I have known each other for eight years, and we used to play against each other, but for the last three years we’ve been together, and we’ve beaten a lot of teams.”
With 7:26 remaining in the half, Giragosian threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Kwan, and after the Dukes recovered their second onside kick of the half, Giragosian called his own number at the one-yard line on fourth down for the major score.
The PAT failed but with 3:45 remaining, the Grizzlies’ led just 27-20.
Buchwitz had the answer, however, taking a shovel pass from Frick and ultimately breaking four tackles on his way to a 56-yard touchdown, his third major of the game, for a 34-20 lead three minutes to the half.
The scoring, however, did not relent.
Over the final two minutes of the half, Windsor again found a way to score, Giragosian’s 23-yard pass into the corner of the end zone brought down Adam Murray to make it 34-27.
G.W. Graham’s Frick closed out the half with a 27-yard scoring strike to Buchwitz for a 40-27 halftime score.
“You saw that Logan is a heck of a player, right?” smiled Smith after Buchwitz finished one major shy of a personal-record eight majors set in pee wee. “He dominates both sides of the ball. Seven touchdowns but he’s also our leading tackler. Just unstoppable. He is as advertised. There were certainly plays where you can see his dominance. He is a level above most of the kids in JV.”
Smith loves the momentum the school’s latest provincial football title creates for their program.
“It’s a great group of players, and a lot of these guys won a provincial championship last season (at the bantam community level with the Chilliwack Giants),” said Smith. “I am so proud of all of them and we’ll be back next year with even stronger numbers.”
The Grizzlies also won B.C. junior varsity titles in 2013 and 2014.
VANCOUVER COLLEGE 26 ST. THOMAS MORE 20
VANCOUVER — You can’t start a football season in much any tougher fashion than the Vancouver College Fighting Irish’s Grade 8 squad did this season.
Within an 0-4 start, there were three losses by a combined 13 points.
Yet in keeping with the theme of peaking when it matters most, the Vancouver College team which started winning games over the second half of the campaign kept that upward trajectory on track Saturday, topping the St. Thomas More Knights 26-20 to win the 2018 Quadra Cup at B.C. Place Stadium.
The game, however, didn’t start the way the Irish would have planned.
Knights’ quarterback A.J. Castillo delivered a deep strike to receiver Denis Glavas, who turned and made a perfect adjustment, hauling in the pass and completing a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown for a 6-0 lead 29 seconds into the game.
Vancouver College, however, responded with three straight majors.
Quarterback Ty Benefield threw a 30-yard touchdown strike to Mikyle Malabuoc before running back Grayson Frers scored touchdowns off runs of 37 and five yards.
Frers ran in the two-point covert on the latter score making it 20-6 Irish with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter.
St. Thomas More running back Kairo Chiang was able to repsond with a four-yard touchdown run to make it 20-12 just before the end of the third quarter.
The rally, however, would come up short as the team’s traded fourth-quarter scores.
Benefield hit Malabuyoc with a 25-yard pass-and-run for a 26-12 lead before Chiang replied for the Knights along the ground from five yards out. Caspillo’s two-point covert run closed out the scoring.
Frers was named the game’s MVP while Benefield was named its Top Back.
“Practice makes perfect and we were striving for perfection,” said Irish head coach Matt Esaw. “We had so many players aim for that, and that’s all that matters.”
Esaw loved the resiliency of his team, both on the season and to Saturday’s game.
“I told them it’s a rollercoaster ride and you have to stay as level as possible and keep your emotions in check,” he said.
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