Welcome high school football fans.
It’s a big week in the Triple A ranks and the fervour of conference clashes just adds to the excitement.
Here’s our in-depth look at five games to watch this weekend:
KELOWNA OWLS VS. NO. 1 LORD TWEEDSMUIR PANTHERS
3 p.m. on Friday at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
About the Panthers: Lord Tweedsmuir’s defence has been Iron Curtain-good over the first three games, and LT hasn’t allowed a point since defeating current No. 2 New Westminster 15-6 to open the season. Ever since, it’s been a 21-0 win at Blaine, and a 27-0 win at Terry Fox. “Teams have tested us on the ground and through the air and our defence has stood tall, created turnovers and made stops when it’s counted the most,” says Lord Tweedsmuir head coach Kurt Thornton. Linebacker Nathan Gernon, tackle Kyle Dodd and outside ‘backer Tremel States-Jones have exemplified the attitude of the overall unit, typified by both its pride and its level of team pursuit. Thornton, however, tips his cap to the Owls’ front seven for the pass protection it has afforded dynamic opposition pivot Isaac Athans. “They bring multiple pressure packages and combine interior size with dynamic, athletic ends and linebackers. (Tomas) Kuhn, Ulm and really the entire front seven require a lot of preparation.”
About the Owls: Head coach Chris Cartwright’s team has experienced what he terms “the extremes that are seen in this game.” KSS had to dig deep just to finish with an injury-depleted lineup in a 34-7 loss to then-No. 1 Vancouver College, returned to health in a 42-0 win over Rutland and then missed a late field in a 14-12 loss to Abbotsford. Lord Tweedsmuir will be the second No. 1 team they’ve faced in four games. “Overall, the one thing that is consistent is that we’ve met the challenge from our opposition. Our game against Abbotsford proved to us that we can hang with anybody in our league and our goal is to continue to challenge each other all the way to where we believe we can go this season.” The Owls’ defence has grown up fast over the first three games, and now, with an attacking mindset led by linebacker Nathan Gilbert, it will set its sights on a Tweedsmuir offence led by dynamic running back Noah Anderson.
SEAQUAM SEAHAWKS AT MISSION ROADRUNNERS
3:30 p.m. on Friday at Mission Secondary
On the Roadrunners: Coming in off an 18-6 loss to St. Thomas More in its conference opener last week, Mission head coach Danny Jakobs will need a young team to find its feet defensively against a well-drilled Seaquam ground game. “We are a young team so no part of our team has been overly consistent this year,” admitted Jakobs. “Our defensive line has made most of our big plays this year.” Cody McMahon has anchored that line and the 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior defensive end is a player to watch, as is Grade 11 Matt White. “Seaquam has a good power running game and we are putting together a game plan to limit it,” adds Jakobs of a group led led by Christan Carlon-Diaz, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior. “Hopefully it plays into our strength but they will be tough to stop.”
On the Seahawks: Head coach Navin Chand is seeing week-to-week growth from his team ,especially along its offensive line, where Jas Sanghera and Angad Grewal are helping anchor a group defined by its ability to not only facilitate the run game, but allow quarterback James Mather to do his thing in the pass game. “Our offensive attack has been more balanced than ever mainly due to our the versatility of our offensive line,” says Chand. The Seahawks’ defence, however, has had to immerse itself in preparation for the ‘Runners’ double-wing offence. It’s the second year since Jakobs installed it, and Chand is right up front when he talks about the importance of keeping eyes open along his defence. “This will definitely be a challenge for us to prepare for. The they run it very well. They run a lot of misdirection and they can pass quite well out of the formation.” Adds Chand of the Mission defence: “The one player that everyone in the province knows about is Cody McMahon. He was a member of Team B.C. this past summer. He is a tremendous defensive end and we will need to be ready for him.”
NOTRE DAME JUGGLERS AT NO. 2 NEW WESTMINSTER HYACKS
7:30 p.m. on Friday at Mercer Stadium
On the Jugglers: Whether in pass coverage or coming up to support the run, the play of Notre Dame’s unheralded secondary has been most impressive to watch over the first three games of the Jugglers’ campaign. They get their biggest test thus far against the team which has emerged as the West’s team to beat. “I think our defensive secondary has been most consistent,” admits Notre Dame head coach Denis Kelly. Corner Kaelen Bosa, and safeties Oliver Wyszomirsky and Massimo Ryan have led the unit. “We haven’t faced any dynamic passing teams so far but they have by and large done a good job of being of the proper position and defending the run. I feel this group has been a surprise because they are playing varsity football for the first time. There are no returnees from last year.” Now that the Jugglers have gone to a similar version of the Wing-T offence which has been employed at New Westminster since 2003, they should be better prepared than ever to face an offensive unit led by running back Greyson Planinsic, who comes in averaging just over 100 yards per game on the ground. “New West has great execution and attack very aggressively,” says Kelly. “They know their jobs and do it well. They have very good personnel and play with confidence. We will have to be at our very best to stay with them.”
On the Hyacks: New West head coach Farhan Lalji has gleaned the Wing-T offence from top coaches, including Notre Dame’s Kelly. Facing the Jugglers for the first time since the Jugglers have installed a similar offence just adds to the intrigue of this matchup. “The Notre Dame coaches are keeping me up at night. Coach Kelly is the dean of high school coaches in the province and one of the men who taught me the Wing T,” says Lalji. “In the past, we’ve had an edge when teams don’t really know how to simulate it in practice. Now that he has committed to running it at Notre Dame, they will have a good sense of how to prepare against it. Plus coach (Jordan) Liberman is very experienced and savvy as their defensive coordinator, so both of them will make it hard for us.” There’s also the matter of a certain Notre Dame linebacker to have to deal with. “Ian Marin is exceptional for them and we’ll have to make sure we do a good job against him if we want to move the ball,” added Lalji. At the same time, the Hyacks aren’t No. 2 without a reason. Its defence has suffocated opposition run games, like last week when they held Mt. Douglas to just 37 yards on the ground for the entire game. They have surrendered an average of just 66 yards per game against Lord Tweedsmuir, G.W. Graham and Mt. Doug combined. “I think our D-line has been playing very well so far,” confirms Lalji. “It has been very difficult for our opponents to run the ball consistently to this point. Pavan Kainth, Vishaan Narayan and Owen Stark have all been difficult for teams to handle. Vishaan gives us good power and an interior presence, while Owen and Pavan have been playing with a great motor off the edge.”
CARSON GRAHAM EAGLES AT NO. 3 SOUTH DELTA SUN DEVILS
1:30 p.m. Saturday at South Delta Secondary
On the Eagles: Playing against a Sun Devils offence which has scored at least four touchdowns in every game en route to a 3-0 start will be a challenge for Carson Graham. With that in mind, head coach Brian Brady’s defence will get an incredible test from an offence led by the incomparable South Delta quarterback Ben McDonald, whose 11 TD throws are five more than the next closest AAA pivot. “Our secondary has been strong,” begins Brady. “They have made it difficult to push the ball down-field and given our front seven time to get to the quarterback. This week against South Delta will be a challenge, however, because each year they are the best in the province at getting the ball to playmakers down-field.”
Jake Oseen, Kevean Pashandi and Adam Usher, all athletic and adaptable multi-sport kids, will be key to slowing down the Sun Devils, especially when McDonald’s flair for finding open receivers on broken plays puts him right into his comfort zone. “McDonald is a guy whocan lengthen plays with his feet and he has (Evan) Paterson and (Ethan) Troniak, who have quality experience from last season and would start for any team in the province. Plus their defence is filled with playmakers. They’re big on the inside and (middle linebacker) Bennett Stoilen brings it. Their defensive backfield is athletic and rally to the ball very well. Over the past couple of games, there are plays where on 50-50 balls, they just seem to will it away from the opposition.”
On the Sun Devils: Brady has the hosts well-scouted. The Sun Devils, 37-0 winners over Terry Fox and 27-0 winners over Seaquam, didn’t even allow a point until last weekend, when they upset former No. 1 Vancouver College 38-23. Carson Graham is coming off a huge Buchanan Bowl win over crosstown rival Handsworth, but the Sun Devils will be an even bigger challenge. South Delta head coach Ray Moon, however, knows just how productive Carson Graham’s Grade 11 quarterback Lucas Granger has been. In fact while Granger has only thrown two touchdown passes this season, he leads Triple A with 672 passing yards (60.3 per cent completion percentage), 170 more than the second-place McDonald.
“They have a great passing attack going and so one of our challenges is going to be having our coverages in place long enough so that we can get pressure on the quarterback,” Moon said of Granger. “We want to make him more concerned with the possible rush he will face than rather than trying to defend all his various targets because he has a couple of good ones out there, who if they get a hold of the ball, will be a challenge to take down in the open field.”
Pashandi, Oseen and Jake Curleigh, as well as running back Trent Skill have been the Eagles’ top quartet of receivers thus far in 2019.
NO. 5 MT. DOUGLAS RAMS AT NO. 4 VANCOUVER COLLEGE FIGHTING IRISH
1:30 p.m. Saturday at Vancouver College
On the Fighting Irish: Rare have the occasions been over the last half-decade plus that these two teams have come into their annual clash having both been spanked in conference play the week prior. That will be the case come Saturday afternoon at O’Hagan Field. VC’s veteran coach Todd Bernett nails the mood heading in: “Vancouver College versus Mt. Doug has become a rivalry that carries a heavy mental burden both before and after the game. During the week you’re up at night due to their combination of ability and preparedness. If you win, it’s so satisfying to beat them because you must have really earned it. The concern if you win however is ‘Does it create complacency?’ A loss to them is devastating because the series can be streaky, and you don’t want to be on the bad end of it and let three or four in a row get away from you.” The Irish played like a No. 1 team until their loss to South Delta last week seemed to announce another wide-open field for Subway Bowl’s AAA spoils. “We’ve battled inconsistency and a lack of finish this season. No position group has been immune. It’s part of the process of this team becoming who it is meant to be,” said Bernett. “Right now we have had a few set backs that have humbled us and made us focus on our fundamentals and technique…we are well aware that we are not playing at a level we expect from ourselves, but we are committed to getting right.”
On the Rams: Mt. Douglas’ home field loss to surging New Westminster cut deep. That said, however, head coach Mark Townsend says his team’s defence has given every indication that they are capable of growing to become a defining characteristic of the team. “Our defence has played well so far this year, although we are still looking for a complete and consistent game from all areas of the unit,” he said. That defence has been led by linebacker Cole Bunting. Townsend is as well-versed as anyone in preparing for the layers of challenge that Vancouver College presents. “They have talented athletes and great depth,” he says. “(Linebacker) Matt Hoag is as good as they come in the province and an experienced defensive line with guys like Ryan Hsiao, Josh Hsiung, Simon Smith and Ayden Tumeh are equally impressive. Then you add in the athletes the Irish have in their secondary like Keijaun Johnson, and you have a formidable defensive unit. As always, they are a huge challenge for us in all aspects of the game.”
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.