Morning Star Staff
Play some of the best teams in the province and get battle-tested for the regular Okanagan Conference regular high school football season.
That’s the strategy behind the VSS Panthers as they face the always-tough Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford today (3:30 p.m.) at the Greater Vernon Athletics Park.
VSS hits the Island Saturday, Sept. 17 to tackle the powerhouse John Barsby Blazers in Nanaimo before entertaining the No. 1 Abbotsford Panthers Saturday, Sept. 24 and the Pitt Meadows Marauders Friday, Sept. 30.
“I expect a lot of growing pains to start this year,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “We play four Lower Mainland teams before our league schedule begins. We open against a tough Bateman team that showed very well in their spring scrimmage against Abbotsford. We then travel to Nanaimo to take on the perennial top seed John Barsby Bulldogs (#3 in BC). They are the gold standard for AA football in the province.
“Our program has played them three times in the playoffs (including two provincial semifinals) and once in the regular season and has not beaten them yet. They play a tough, grind-you down, pound-the-ball on the ground style of play and are very well coached. I think our team matches up well with them so I’m hoping we can finally get a W against them.”
The Panthers will rely on Grade 10 pivot Thomas Hyett to lead their passing attack in 2016.
Despite having very little game experience at the position, I’m looking forward to him making huge strides as the year progresses. He put in a ton of time refining his mechanics this off season and is gaining confidence each practice,” said Smith.
Ben Hladik, an ultra-talented 6-foot-2 receiver who can play multiple positions, has signed with the UBC Thunderbirds for 2017.