Saturday’s high school football finals at B.C. Place were brought to you by the letter V.
The Vancouver College Fighting Irish won their second straight Triple A provincial crown and third since 2019, thanks to a 21-0 triumph over the Carson Graham Eagles. Vancouver College’s junior team nabbed the Triple A junior varsity title earlier in the day at the downtown dome with a 38-21 victory over the South Delta Sun Devils.
Meanwhile, the Vernon Panthers claimed their third Double A banner since 2018 with a 23-22 decision over the John Barsby Bulldogs. Vernon’s junior team was victorious as well, taking the Double A junior varsity title with a 61-22 win over the Ballenas Whalers.
“It’s a proud day for our program, but it’s also worth noting that this comes with a lot of hard work,” said Vancouver College senior coach Bryan Chiu, whose school also won the Grade 8 provincial title last week at B.C. Place with a 14-6 victory over the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers. “These boys work year round. They’ve bought into what we’re about.”
Vernon coach Sean Smith explained: “We’ve got a lot of people in place who contribute and when you have a lot of people contributing to the machinery it just runs. We’ve got a lot of people who care about Panther football.”
Vancouver College (13-0) stifled and stymied Carson Graham (9-3), a North Vancouver team that was averaging 32 points a game this season coming in. That included a 41-28 loss to the Fighting Irish in an Oct. 7 regular season game.
One of Vancouver College’s aims Saturday included trying to keep Carson Graham’s offence off the field as much as possible and they put that on display instantly. Vancouver College scored on the game’s first drive, chewing 5:57 off the game clock en route to running back Hudson Bromley rambling into the end zone from 31 yards out. Running back Ryder Quintana added a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, culminating a drive that started on the Carson Graham 41-yard line thanks to a nifty, double-tipped interception by safety Declan Skinner.
Carson Graham’s best chance to score came in the waning seconds of the second quarter from 24 yards out, when quarterback Liam Marshall just failed to connect with receiver Eric Town at the goal line and then on the following play was picked off in the end zone by Vancouver College defensive back Cole Pryputsch on another attempt to Town.
Bromley added insurance with a five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“That was our game plan, to slow the game down,” said Chiu, the former Montreal Alouettes offensive lineman who played his high school ball at Vancouver College. “Because they like to play fast we wanted to slow it down.
“When our defence holds a team like that to zero points and forces that many turnovers, it’s a testament to our defensive staff. I have the best staff.”
The game between Vernon (11-1) and Nanaimo’s John Barsby (9-2) was decidedly more seesaw.
A 30-yard touchdown strike from John Barsby’s Cohen Cadieux to receiver Meshach Imanzenobe down the right flank and the two-point convert from Cadieux to receiver Kai Rednour-Bruckman that followed had the Bulldogs trailing 23-22 with just 2:20 remaining.
Vernon moved the ball down the field and were fourth and inches from the John Barsby 41-yard line with 1:21 to go. Instead of the expected quarterback sneak by Cole Budgen, Vernon pitched right to running back Jonah Lee and he got the necessary distance for the first down, which iced the game.
“We just put that play in this week, because we had done a lot of QB sneak,” Smith said afterwards. “I was saving it for this moment. I don’t normally like doing a toss play on fourth and short but I figured they’d be stacking the box.
“I didn’t think about punting. They get an explosive play, they’re going to win the game regardless (if Vernon punted or turned it over on downs).”
John Barsby went up 14-10 with 36 seconds to go in the second quarter, thanks to a 17-yard pass from Cadieux to Rednour-Bruckman and the two-points that followed. The lead was short lived, as Budgen connected with receiver Anderson Bicknell on a 68-yard pass-and-run play for a major with 24 seconds remaining before the intermission. Vernon missed the point after attempt and were up 16-14 at the break.
Vernon won the B.C. titles in 2018 and 2019. There were no high school sports of any kind in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the football playoffs in 2021 were held only regionally because of the travel worries after the mass flooding around the province. Vernon lost the Triple A/Double A hybrid Interior final 21-20 to the Triple A Kelowna Owls.
John Barsby beat Vernon 36-14 in last year’s semifinals and then fell 45-14 to Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves in the final.
Vancouver College won in 2019 and were favoured to take the Coastal championship in 2021 but were beaten 27-24 by Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs in the quarterfinals. They downed Chilliwack’s GW Graham Grizzlies 13-12 in last year’s Triple A provincial championship game.
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