Morning Star Staff
The VSS Panthers will open the B.C. High School Varsity Football League playoffs Friday in Kamloops against the Nechako Valley Vikings of Vanderhoof.
Sean Smith’s Cats earned the first-round berth by claiming the Okanagan Valley Division title (6-1) with a 45-8 grounding of the Okanagan Mission Huskies Saturday at Kalamalka Secondary.
Kal (6-1) also advanced to the provincials by stopping the Fulton Maroons 21-7 Saturday. The Lakers, coached by Corrado Felice, meet the South Delta Sun Devils Friday in Kamloops. It was the first time Kal has ever knocked off Fulton in senior AA varsity play.
“Winning the Valley championship is a great accomplishment for this team,” said Smith. “They are a tough, hard-nosed group that are not fun to play against and bring their best every week. I’ve been with some of them for three years, and they’ve lost three league games in that time. That’s a credit to their talent level and work ethic.”
Nechako Valley finished 5-2 in the Northern Division. Kick-off Friday is 2:30 p.m. at Hillside Stadium.
Colton Klein and Thomas Mills each scored two touchdowns for VSS, who led 18-0 at the break. Brett Lemiski opened the offence with an eight-yard score before Klein broke loose for a 92-yard romp to end the first quarter. Klein rushed for a two-yard score in the second quarter.
Mills opened the second-half attack with a 50-yard TD ramble with Caton Garvie hooking up with with Perry Klymchuk for a two-point convert pass. Garvie then ran in a 30-yard interception return to make it 32-0 VSS after three quarters.
Mills, on a 21-yard run, and Isaiah Hennessey, on a three-yard scamper, supplied TDs in the final quarter.
“Both our offensive and defensive lines were able to control the line of scrimmage from the opening snap,” said Smith. “Noah Miller (six tackles and one fumble recovery) did an outstanding job at defensive end for us, once again controlling the edge. He’s done it all year and makes life a lot easier for our linebackers.”
Klein finished the day with 10 touches and 134 yards rushing, while Mills carried six times for 106 yards.
Mills also recorded six tackles, while Brett Lemiski earned three tackles and Colten Gaudet provided two tackles and one fumble recovery. Garvie chipped in with two tackles and one stripped ball for a TD.
“Our offensive line (Miles Welford, Colten Gaudet, Isaiah Hennessey, Josh Froom, Jared Caton) did a great job creating holes for our run game; as indicated by our tailbacks averaging 15 yds per carry,” added Smith. “Lots of credit goes to our line coaches (Keith Johnston and Andy Shaw) for preparing our linemen all season long.”
The Lakers, meanwhile, got two touchdowns from Marek Splawinski and one from quarterback Brendan Squair as they defeated the Maroons,
“Marek had a big game running the ball, “ said Felice. “He missed our last two games and he made a big difference. He had well over 100 yards.
“Our defence played great. Tom Hettrich, one of our three Grade 12s, was outstanding at linebacker and safety. He was making tackles all over the field; he saved a touchdown or two. He’s smart and tough and he can run.”
Marco Giampa and Colton Hanley contained the Maroons from the inside, while Hettrich (game MVP) and Squair controlled the outside. Kal led 14-7 at the half.
Splawinski broke loose for TD runs of 20 and 30 yards, while Squair snuck in on a late 20-yard scramble, while completing all three converts.
South Delta finished at 1-3 in the Western Conference. Kick-off Friday is 1 p.m.
Kyle Richardson scored for Fulton on a sweet 33-yard scramble, while going 5-for-20 and 87 yards passing from the quarterback spot. Mike Ochoa had one 30-yard catch, while Broden Romanovitch caught two passes for 29 yards and Clayton Mottus hauled in two aerials for 28 yards.
Richardson also carried the ball nine times for 83 yards and had one sack on defence, while Lucas Hofer gained 65 yards on 19 touches.
Hofer recorded 10 tackles, while Mark Wagner counted six tackles and one fumble recovery and Tyler Annesley and Romanovitch each provided five tackles and Tanner Bishop four. Romanovitch had one pick.
“Congratulations to Kal on defeating us and earning the second playoff berth to provincials,” said Fulton head coach Mike Scheller. “It was a tight, hard-fought game between the two teams, and in the end, Kal was better that day.
“Both defences played great, but they did more offensively to win. They jumped to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions, and we spent the rest of the game playing catchup.”
Fulton was offered an extra playoff berth since the Southern Conference No. 4 seed bowed out. The Maroons (5-2) will play the No. 1 ranked and undefeated John Barsby Bulldogs Friday in Nanaimo.
Ochoa, a linebacker, was named defensive player of the year in the conference. Richardson, Annesley, Hofer and Romanovitch made the Valley all-star team, along with Squair, Giampa, Hettrich, Splawinski and Grade 9 Karson Patommel, all of Kal. VSS was shut out of the voting.