The road to returning to the Subway Bowl began in earnest for the Vernon Panthers Saturday.
The Panthers, who lost the 2016 B.C. High School AA Football Subway Bowl championship to Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks, took on West Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie Bears in a scrimmage format at Greater Vernon Athletics Park.
The teams took turns running 15 plays from the opponent’s 40-yard line, trying to score as many times as they could.
VSS reached the end zone twice.
The first was a well-placed pass from returning quarterback Thomas Hyett to Perez Vermeulen for the the receiver’s first-ever touchdown (relegated to kicking duties during his rookie campaign a year ago).
Grade 11 tailback Charles Lemay cashed in the second TD on a three-yard run. Senior Bradley Hladik led all Panthers receivers with five catches for 51 yards. Hyett was 7-15 for 68 yards while Lemay scampered for 37 yards on seven carries.
The VSS defence held the Bears to just one touchdown.
“It’s early and this was a good chance to run some plays and see what we need to improve on for our first real game this week,” said Panthers head coach Sean Smith. “I thought the bright spots for our squad were Hyett and Vermeulen (who also contributed three tackles and an interception from his cornerback spot.”
The schools’ junior squads also took part. VSS put on an aerial show, downing the Junior Bears nine touchdowns to one.
QB Zack Smith hit five different receivers, finishing 17 of 25 for 255 yards including nine touchdown passes, five of them to receiver Caden Danbrook (nine catches, 140 yards).
Grade 9 standout Ethan Mitchell had three TDs, 73 yards receiving and added an interception on defence. Michael Preston had a solo touchdown to round out the scoring.
The Bears only managed one touchdown against a stingy Panther defense that intercepted four passes. Liam Reid and Danbrook paced all Panthers with three tackles while John Bielski (1 INT) and Matthew Reich (1 INT) chipped in two.
“Our juniors were running our offence in mid-season form and our playmakers did their job and made a lot of plays,” said Smith. “Liam Reid’s outstanding play at a new position (defensive end) was a pleasant surprise and his consistent pressure allowed us to get three interceptions.”
Both VSS teams travel to Abbotsford for Week 1 exhibition games. The Senior Panthers take on the Robert Bateman Timberwolves Friday afternoon while the Juniors tackle the Abbotsford Panthers Saturday afternoon.