The Vernon Panthers are through to the B.C. Senior AA boys football semifinals.
Playing under the Friday-night lights at UBC Thunderbird Stadium, the Cats earned a hard-fought 16-12 upset win over the Rick Hansen Hurricanes of Abbotsford.
“It’s been a long time coming for an Interior team to reach the semifinals. My boys believed in themselves all season and because of that were able to pull off a huge upset. It’s a great day for Panther football,” said VSS head coach Sean Smith.
“This was truly a team victory. I won’t mention any individuals because all 18 boys that made the trip contributed to the win. We had a pretty simple recipe – play mistake free football, take advantage of their miscues and don’t give up big plays. The boys did exactly that. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they represented their school today.”
After a scoreless first quarter Vernon’s Caton Garvie collected a fumble in the red zone and scampered 95 yards for a touchdown.
The Hurricanes responded with a TD later in the half to make it 6-6 at the break.
Brett Lemiski recorded the Panthers’ second fumble recovery TD, hitting the end zone from 25 yards. VSS added the convert to go up 13-6, but Hansen answered yet again with a rushing TD to pull within a point.
Thomas Mills, who led the VSS rush with 80 yards on 12 carries, put the game away with a clutch field goal.
Colton Klein added 30 yards on nine carries, while Garvie, Lemiski and Perry Klymchuk also moved the ball on the ground.
Garvie completed two of seven passes for 50 yards, hitting Lemiski for a 30-yarder and Klymchuk for a 20-yard gain.
On defence, Klein was a beast with 15 tackles and a knockdown, while Mills (10 tackles), Klymchuk (8 and a knockdown), Cody Bell (6 tackles, fumble recovery), Keaton Hubner (5) and Jaxon Toth (5) all had big defensive games.
“Rick Hansen was a tough team to defend. They had a great passing game along with some big bodies that could move us in the run game. Full credit to coach Shaw and Thorpe for putting together a game-plan that held them to two TDs…and to our boys for executing their scheme to perfection,” said Smith.
The Panthers will now face the No. 1-rated John Barsby Bulldogs of Nanaimo in the semis.
The Bulldogs bounced Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers 40-6 Friday.
In other quarterfinal action Saturday, Richmond’s Hugh Boyd Trojans battled Parksville’s Ballenas Whalers, and the South Delta Sun Devils tangled with the Mission Roadrunners.