Morning Star Staff
Grade 9 phenom Ben Hladik has boosted the VSS Panthers to the final-four in the B.C. Junior AA Varsity Football League.
Hladik scored touchdowns four different ways as Dave Tetreault’s Cats stopped the Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford 36-20 in provincial quarterfinal action Wednesday night at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.
The Panthers face the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville in the semifinals Wednesday afternoon at Burnaby Lakes Complex. Ballenas bounced the Seaquam Seahawks of Delta 41-12 Wednesday.
After a tough defensive and scoreless first quarter, Hladik began his magical night. Quarterback Keegan Vicklund threw a pass to the Wolves’ end-zone line that looked like a sure interception. Hladik ripped the ball from the defender and gave the Cats a first down at the Wolves’ five-yards line. Vicklund dove in for the opening score. Hladik caught a dart for the conversion for a 8-0 cat lead.
With seven seconds left in the first half, the Wolves looked to run out the clock. Hladik tore the ball from the tailback’s hands running 60 yards to score with no time left on the clock. Fullback Carson Lebrecque powered in the conversion to give the Cats a 16-0 half-time lead.
“Bateman played us tough,” said coach Tetreault. “Our veteran guys, Justin Haverkamp, Zack Hyer, Jesse Bielsky and Liam Boyd, played great on defence. We just found a way to get the job done.”
The second half saw Hladik scamper 60 yards on a sweep to give the Cats a commanding 24-0 lead after a Haverkamp plunge for the conversion. The Timberwolves answered back, scoring on a 40-yard sweep.
The Panthers responded with Hladik catching a 50-yard bomb from Vicklund to make it 30-6.
After a Timberwolve score in the fourth quarter, the attempted onside kick was scooped up by Hladik, who ran 50 yards to paydirt for his fourth touchdown of the night, giving the panthers a 36-12 lead. Bateman added a late TD.
Hladik finished the night with 150 yards rushing, while Haverkamp racked up 145 yards on the ground and fullback Carson Lebrecque had 50 yards combined through the air and ground.
Defensively, Lebrecque led the Cats with 14 tackles while Haverkamp had 13. Liam Boyd chipped in with seven take downs.
“I have coached 25 years,” said Tetreault. “I witnessed a pretty special night by our team and an incredible display by one player, Ben Hladik . He just decided to make plays everywhere. Not only is he good at football, he’s a great kid. He also has great teammates. Both offensive coach Ed Huber and myself had enjoyed coaching this group. They work hard, improve and they are tough. They play ironman football, Panther football.”
The senior Panthers battle the Carson Graham Eagles of North Vancouver in quarterfinal action tonight in Kamloops.