PORT COQUITLAM — Back in December of 2008, the Terry Fox Ravens had a football season for the ages: 12-0 and a wire-to-wire perch at No. 1 in the AAA rankings, capped with a Subway Bowl B.C. championship title.
Later that spring, with many of the football team’s stars, the Fox rugby team went out and had its most successful season in the school’s history.
Mind you, they finished 13th overall, but that was in the days before each of the two major size classes were broken into two tiers.
On Saturday, that script of eight years ago seemed to manifest itself in near carbon-copy form with the Ravens’ graduating Class of 2017 football/rugby players.
The Port Coquitlam school, of course, went to overtime this past December to beat Vancouver’s Notre Dame Jugglers for the B.C. Subway Bowl football title on a field goal by kicker Devin Passaglia.
On Saturday, the Ravens’ rugby team capped its 2017 season by winning the B.C. Triple A Tier 2 title with a 30-20 win in Abbotsford over the Penticton Lakers.
“Since they have re-tiered rugby in the province, there are four teams at Quad A and eight more at Tier 1, so by winning Tier 2, this is pretty much the same as we did in 2009,” says Ravens’ co-coach Jorge Knizek.
Knizek isn’t trying to downplay the accomplishment of the Ravens over the weekend, but in a world filled with Shawnigans, Yales, Carson Grahams, St. Georges, and the like, he is just keeping it real.
Yet in the same breath, he can see the vast potential that exists to make rugby a prime spring sport at the school in much the way football and rugby co-exist at another of B.C.’s larger, tradition-laden multi-sport schools: North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Secondary.
“It’s very frustrating to just see the athletic potential in the building and then to see how great the struggle is to get kids out for rugby,” says Knizek. “Our spring season is the most difficult because we are trying to get kids who are wanting to protect themselves for football scholarships, or for baseball, hockey, field lacrosse and spring league basketball.
“The number of kids we could have? I think we could have two (rugby) teams each year at Fox.”
This season, with Craig Geddes, Knizek and Michael Collins forming the coaching triumvirate, Terry Fox showcased its athleticism, with several of its star football players — Matt Shuen, Brendan Dieno, captain Devan Passaglia, Zander Bailey — leading the way.
Dieno’s 40-metre sprint down the middle of the field in the second half gave the Ravens a 25-10 lead.
Shuen, a fullback-type on the football team, scored the Ravens final try of the game and was later named to the tourney’s Commissioner’s XV.
Outside centre Adam Janicijevic scored a pair of tries for the winners while Harrison Pride and Bailey scored the others.
“At schools like Yale and Earl Marriott, rugby is a flagship sports program at their school,” says Knizek. “And if you aren’t one of those, say, five or six schools in the sport, it can be a year-to-year proposition. We were fortunate to have three-to-four years of kids that helped us get to this level. Realistically for us, it could be a one-to-two year hiatus from even making the B.C.’s.”
Or, maybe winning the school’s first senior varsity provincial rugby title will be enough for more of the school’s vast student-body to fully embrace the multi-sports movement which seems to be gaining more and more traction.
If any school has the student-athletes to make a push in rugby, it’s Terry Fox. The question is whether Saturday’s finish was a peak or the start of a new foundation of success.
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