It’s the thrill of victory for one set of Panthers, and the agony of defeat for the other.
Samwel Uko’s fourth rushing touchdown with 43 seconds left in the game gave the third-seeded Abbotsford Panthers a 28-25 win over the No. 2 Vernon Panthers in the first of two B.C. AA High School Senior Boys Varsity Football Subway Bowl semifinals Saturday at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
Abbotsford will face the winner between the top-ranked Windsor Dukes of North Vancouver and the fourth-rated G.W. Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack in next Saturday’s Subway Bowl B.C. AA final at B.C. Place.
Vernon was trying to make it back to the Subway Bowl final after losing last year’s championship game to the Seaquam Seahawks of Delta.
Uko’s fourth TD came on a sustained drive after Landon Colvin had given Vernon a 25-21 lead with 6:43 remaining. Abby was 4-for-4 on converts.
The Panthers got the ball to the Abbotsford 38-yard-line and a last-ditch, hail Mary pass to the end zone was knocked down by an Abbotsford defender.
Abbotsford led 7-6 at the half.
Vernon opened the scoring late in the first quarter when Zack Smith scored on a 55-yard play. The convert was blocked.
After a Vernon fumble, Abbotsford scored with two minutes left in the opening half on a 25-yard run by Uko. The Abby Cats’ convert was good.
Uko scored another rushing touchdown with 5:43 left in the third quarter and the convert gave Abbotsford a 14-6 lead.
Vernon replied immediately with Grade 12 running back Charles Lemay scampering 75 yards to pull Vernon to within two at 14-12. The convert was no good.
Late in the third, Uko added another dagger, rumbling in from 28 yards out with a handful of Vernon tacklers draped all over him. The convert was good giving Abby a 21-12 lead with 1:56 left in the quarter.
A huge catch on the one-yard-line by Grade 10 receiver Caden Danbrook on the final play of the quarter set Vernon up for a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Again, the convert failed, leaving the Fraser Valley Panthers ahead 21-18.
Abbotsford quarterback Ethan Anderson is a Grade 10 student who played community football in Vernon before moving to the Fraser Valley.
The Vernon Panthers will meet the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville next Saturday at the dome in the B.C. Junior Varsity final.