The Vernon Panthers scored early and often, taking down their cross-town rival Fulton Maroons 52-0 before a huge crowd trying to keep warm under the lights of a frosty Greater Vernon Athletics Park Friday night.
It was the final regular season high school Senior Boys AA varsity football game for both teams.
Public address announcer Bob Shannon recognized the graduating players from both teams prior to kick-off.
Fresh off a AA Provincial Player of the Week Award, Levi Nicholas opened the scoring on the Panthers’ second drive of the game, taking a 21-yard reverse for a major.
Tailback Jonah Anstey (eight rushes for 117 yards) then hit pay dirt on consecutive drives, taking it in from two and 45 yards to put the Cats up by 19 in the first quarter.
“I was very happy with the way we ran the ball all game,” said Vernon head coach Sean Smith. “Jonah had his best game as a Panther and our offensive line got better as the game progressed.”
The Panthers evoked memories of Chicago Bears legend William (The Refrigerator) Perry in the 1980s when defensive tackle Tyler Riva rambled in from the one-yard line.
Riley Bos rounded out the scoring in the first half with a 21-yard run to put the visitors up by 33 at the break.
Panther pivot Justin Haverkamp (8-12 for 129 yards, two touchdowns) hit Nicholas and Ben Hladik for majors while Bos rushed for his second of the game.
“This group is starting to gel and come together as a team,” said Smith. “For the second week in a row, they were able to execute our game plan to perfection on defence and stayed focused on every play. Our team tackling was outstanding today. We had 14 players make tackles on defence, seven players carry the ball on offence and five different players catch passes.”
Defensively, Tyler Semeniuk led all VSS tacklers with six, while Ben Hladik and Jesse Bielski added five apiece. Defensive back Zach Hyer continued to shine on the back end intercepting two Fulton passes.
For the Maroons, Ike Olson had a great game on both sides of the line. He rushed nine times for 25 yards and, as QB, completed 9-18 passes for 75 yards.
Cole Hunter caught three passes for 33 yards, Kobe Romanovitch added 2-15, Teigen Derkach had 2-15 and Caden Doyle caught three passes for 15 yards.
“On a tough night, Ike really stepped up for us,” said Maroons head coach Mike Scheller. “He played well on both sides of the ball and has a very bright future in the game. Koalden Gudeit-Oakden (led Fulton with six tackles) also played very well for us. Derkach made a couple of nice catches. He is a great kid who works hard every day in practice and just gets better.”
Andrew Goldenthal had four tackles for Fulton, Ryan Rumsey and Bhupi Banga added three each.
“Our kids competed and did their best,” said Scheller, who loses six players – Colton Annis, Romanovitch, Noah Alleyne, Banga, Gurwinder Dhanoa and Mykl Drabiuk – out of 30 to graduation.
“They can be proud of that. They fought but were just simply overmatched. VSS is a well-coached team and they are very physical. Our guys are still young and lack the physicality to compete with VSS.”
Scheller praised his coaching staff for all of their hard volunteer work: Dale Olson, Ben Olson, Kevin Stecyk, Kevin Breiter, Bryan Cragg, Darryl Thomas and Dave Hobbs.
The Panthers begin preparations for playoffs and will host the #3 seed from the Eastern Conference – likely the Abbotsford Panthers or Mission Roadrunners – (Friday, Nov. 13, 6 p.m. at Greater Vernon Athletics Park).
“They are the top conference in the league and have three teams ranked in the top-five in B.C.,” said Smith.
The Vernon Panthers (3-1) will take on undefeated Duchess Park Condors of Prince George (4-0) Thursday in Kamloops in a B.C. junior varsity quarterfinal.