Zac Kronbauer of the Vernon Panthers scampers seven yards while dragging Pranav Araya (40) of the Abbotsford Panthers along for the ride in provincial senior AA boys football semifinal at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.

Zac Kronbauer of the Vernon Panthers scampers seven yards while dragging Pranav Araya (40) of the Abbotsford Panthers along for the ride in provincial senior AA boys football semifinal at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.

Panthers primed for Bulldogs

The VSS Panthers will tangle with the John Barsby Bulldogs of Nanaimo in Saturday's B.C. Varsity AA football semifinal.

Black Press Sports

The John Barsby Bulldogs not only won a provincial varsity AA playoff football game, they found an identity at the same time.

“We’re a bunch of scrappers,” said Rob Stevenson, the team’s coach. “We won’t quit and we don’t mind the taste of our own blood.”

Barsby bounced the Seaquam Seahawks of Delta 27-24 Saturday at Merle Logan Field in Nanaimo to advance to the provincial semifinals against the Vernon Panthers (Saturday, noon, at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium). The final goes Saturday, Dec. 6 at B.C. Place.

“All of us were dead after the game. We had left our whole body on that field,” said Bulldog running back Cole Virtanen, who rang up the winning late touchdown, his third rushing score of the day.

Chris DeGoutiere had Barsby’s other TD, a 60-yard reception from North Rainey. Both Virtanen and Trentyn Anderson finished with more than 130 rushing yards.

The Seahawks put up much more of a fight than expected against the favoured ’Dawgs.

“We rallied together,” said Virtanen. “As a team, we were able to focus for one goal. We all knew what we needed to do, so we just got it done.”

The Dawgs’ coach liked how his players were able to bounce back.

“We didn’t falter; we stayed true to ourselves, who we are, how we play…” said Stevenson. “We were able to execute the plays that we run over and over and over again at 6 a.m. It took us down to the end zone and we got in there and defensively we held on on their last drive.”

VSS head coach Sean Smith, whose Cats dispatched the Abbotsford Panthers 36-6 in quarterfinal play Friday night in Kamloops, knows all about  the Bulldogs.

“John Barsby is the gold standard program in AA football,” said Smith. “They are the defending  provincial champions and have either won or been a top contenders for many years. I believe they have the best coach in AA football and we’ll have to bring our A game to beat them. We played them in the semifinals three seasons ago and hung with them for a half before being overwhelmed.