It took a bobbled pass in the back of the end zone on the final play of the game to decide the winner in an entertaining back and forth senior varsity high school game Thursday at Panther Field.
When the ball finally hit the ground and the whistle blew, the Cochrane Cobras of Alberta with a 28-24 entertaining win over the Vernon Panthers.
Vernon converted on their first drive when Brad Hladik (4 receptions for 135yds – 1 TD) shed an initial tackle at the line of scrimmage and took the bubble screen 56 yards. Cochrane quickly replied on a a 20-yard go route.
The Cats then drove the length of the field and re-took the lead minutes later when tailback Charles Lemay plunged in from three yards. However, the Panthers couldn’t capitalize when Perez Vermeulen intercepted a pass which allowed the Cobras to re-gain momentum.
The Cobras rang up 15 unanswered points before Vermeulen hit a field goal at the end of the half to cut the lead to 21-17.
“We had one coverage error which cost us on a long bomb and didn’t recover the ensuing short kickoff which resulted in two touchdowns in two minutes…..and that was the difference in the game,” added Smith.
The third quarter was scoreless but the Panthers eventually grabbed the lead midway through the fourth when Lemay connected on a two-yard run. Cochrane responded quickly again and caught the Panther defence with a reverse to go ahead with just over a minute to go.
With starting quarterback Thomas Hyett on the sidelines nursing an injury, Grade 10 back-up Zack Smith assumed the duties and drove the Panthers into scoring position. A 12-yard scramble, a five-yard pass and a pass interference call got the Cats into scoring range with three seconds to play.
Smith bought some time with his feet and lofted the ball into the corner of the end zone where 6-foot-3 Brad Hladik was waiting for the pass. Two Cochrane defenders converged and Hladik saw the ball tip off his hands twice before falling to the ground.
“This was a great game for both sides,” said coach Smith. “Cochrane is very well coached and caught us on the game-winning reverse. They were a perfect pre-season opponent for us as they made us defend screens, long balls, quicks and misdirections. On defence, they didn’t give us a lot in the passing game and we had to earn every yard.”
Liam Alder led the Cats with six tackles while Lemay, Landon Colvin and Trey Defoor added five. Hladik and Vermeulen both had interceptions. The Panthers continue their pre-season when they host the Hugh Boyd Trojans of Richmond Friday, 3 p.m. at Panther Field. The Trojans will be looking to avenge their provincial semifinal loss to the Panthers in 2016.
Hyett completed seven of 15 passes for 89 yards. Lemay finished with 20 carries for 98 yards, while Hyett had five touches for 40 yards.