The 2017 G.W. Graham Grizzlies parlayed solid team defence into a long AA Subway Bowl run. Now, after nine years at that tier, the Grizz played their first game as a AAA team Friday and came away with a shutout win over the Robert Bateman Timberwolves. (File photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)
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Varsity Letters’ 09.03.21: B.C. High School Football Report-Friday Night Lights edition… GW Graham defensive front dominates in win over Bateman’s T-Wolves

Welcome to the first 2021 Friday Night Lights edition of the Varsity Letters’ B.C. High School Football Report.

Week 0 brings just one game.


CHILLIWACK — The host G.W. Graham Grizzlies, set for new beginnings this season in the AAA ranks, opened the 2021 campaign at Exhibition Stadium with the kind of complete effort that bodes well for the future.

Facing a familiar AA foe in Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves, G.W. Graham put forth a balanced attack on offence which featured three touchdowns through the air and two more along the ground.

Yet after all was said and done, it was a statement effort from the Grizzlies’ defence which left the most indelible mark on the proceedings.

Nine sacks told the story as G.W. Graham revelled in the schemes of new defensive coordinator Ian Parks.

“We were very happy to win the turnover battle and applied consistent pressure up front,” noted Parks, whose well-prepped unit included linebackers Logan Tocher (10 tackles, one sack) and Brayden Macdonald (seven tackles); tackle Coltson Coton (two sacks), and end Vinny Branauer (four sacks).

Linebackers Gage O’Neill and Yapo Conteh added four tackes each, while in the secondary, cornerbacks Christian Beck and Tyson Oregaard each had an interception. Raiden Mastin led all defensive backs in tackling with four secure open-field stops. Defensive tackle Tyler Bergin added a strip sack fumble that he returned for 15 yards.

“Overall I was pleased with the way this unit played as a team tonight, they worked hard for each other and communicated well – we made some mistakes and need to work hard to get ready for St. Thomas More, but I was happy with the way they came together after just two weeks together,” added Parks.

“It was so good to be back out on the field again,” said Bateman head coach David Mills, whose team trailed 21-0 at halftime and 29-0 heading into the fourth.

“Despite the score, there were lot of positive plays, a bunch of guys did good things,” added Mills, whose team prepares for its home opener this coming Friday (12:30 p.m.) against the crosstown W.J. Mouat Hawks. “The flip side to that is there were a lot of mistakes and sloppy play. But that comes with the territory after the long lay-off. When you play a quality opponent like G.W. Graham they take advantage. They have a lot of bright spots on that roster.”

Leading in that regard?

Receiver Tyson Kelly hit the ground running, making five catches for 132 yards, including scoring grabs of 50 and 32 yards. Josh Caverly added another TD through the air, his via a 10-yard catch.

Quarterback duties were shared by starter Lucas Feaver (6-of-12, 94 yards, two touchdowns) and Nick Beck, who came on in the second half (8-of-14, 86 yards, one touchdown).

Running back Sam Mannes carried the ball six times for 82 yards and a score while Gage O’Neill had eight times for 52 yards and another.

Head coach and offensive coordinator Luke Acheson praised his team’s execution with only two weeks of preparation.

“Typically we have spring ball and summer team camps but this year is obviously different,” said Acheson, “and in spite of that, the protection up front was good and the boys executed well.”

After nine seasons in AA, the Grizzlies play their first AAA foe next Saturday (1:30 p.m.) when they face St. Thomas More in non-conference action on the Knights’ own campus field in Burnaby.

“We know the competition level is different in AAA” said Acheson,“and we are excited to travel to Burnaby and get after it. The boys welcome the challenge.”

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