Panthers rate three B.C. all-stars

Three members of the VSS Panthers will attend the B.C. Subway Bowl Varsity Football awards banquet in Vancouver

Ben Hladik of the VSS Panthers.

Ben Hladik of the VSS Panthers.

Zach Hyer and Levi Nicholas were rarely starters in their minor football years.

They stuck with the game and on Tuesday, they will join VSS Panther teammate Ben Hladik at the B.C. Subway Bowl Varsity Football awards banquet in Vancouver.

Nicholas, a B.C. Lions’ fan, made the provincial AA offence all-star team as a wide receiver. Hyer, at defensive back, and Hladik, on the defensive line, were chosen to the defensive team.

“Aside from being talented, all three boys dedicated themselves to the weight room, participated in all on-field spring sessions, did their work in the film room and performed at a high level all season long,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “As their coach, I was very fortunate to have them as role models for our younger Panthers.”

“I fell in love with the game when I started when I was 11 in Pee Wee, but I was a little chubby kid,” chuckled Nicholas, now 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. “I started leaning out in Grade 7 and it was much easier to play the game. I played just about every position, but mainly tailback.”

“Levi has a second gear that very few players in B.C. have,” said Smith. “His skill-set, however, is more than just speed. He can lower the shoulder and take you on, out-run you or use his athleticism to get around you. He was our offensive weapon this season and played a multitude of positions (tailback, wide receiver and quarterback) to take advantage of his skills.”

Nicholas ran the 40 in 4.7 seconds in training camp and is closer to a 4.6 today.

All three athletes give major props to Smith for their development.

“It was a good run; I learned so much about the game,” said Nicholas, who turns 18 in June. “It takes so much responsibility to juggle school and football and other things.”

After four years under Smith, Nicholas wants to keep playing and he has drawn interest from the Chilliwack Huskers and Westshore Rebels of the B.C. Junior A football league.

Smith says Nicholas is good enough for the CIS.

With an eye towards aerospace engineering, Nicholas is already back in the gym, a week after the Panthers lost the B.C. quarterfinal 28-27 to the Langley Saints.

“You have to stay ahead of everybody else,” said Nicholas, a B.C. Lions’ fan.

Hyer and Nicholas have been tight friends since Grade 8 and may go as a package to the Huskers or Rebels. Hyer also progressed through perserverance after a tough minor career.

“I never played very much. I was small so I was the guy who sat on the sidelines.”

Hyer, who just turned 18, is 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and pl;ays like he weighs 200.

“I have speed and I’m pretty short so I can tackle guys easier. I know how to break on a play and make the tackle.”

“Zach was our lockdown corner this year, said Smith. “Whenever we had an opposing receiver that we were concerned about, No. 81 got the assignment….many times in cover 0 (no safety help). I think Zach might have shown the most improvement (year over year) of any player that I’ve ever coached.”

Hyer, whose younger brother, Josh, also played for VSS, yielded a high adrenaline rush come the end of the week.

“The highlight was playing Friday night. It was definitely worth all the work in practice.”

Zach, a former striker in youth soccer, cheers for the Seahawks and Green Riders. His father, James, is a rugby player who will drive the three boys to the banquet at the Italian Cultural Centre.

Hladik, a monster 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, with one year left of high school, started his VSS career in Grade 8.

“I remember being pretty small in Grade 8. I was six-one, 150 pounds and I had to work pretty hard.”

Hladik also runs the ball and lines up as a receiver for the Cats. His No. 1 love is the dee line.

“I have a strong pass rush and I know when to put my hands up to block a pass. We had a great defence and good game-plans which we executed every game.”

Smith says Hladik brought a unique blend of strength, size and athleticism to the defensive end position.

“He made a lot of plays in open space that very few defensive linemen can make. He spent a lot of time analyzing film and studying opponents….so much so that when we ran scout team, he could call out the play possibilities based on formation and motions. Above all, his anticipation skills and ability to knock down passes was second to none. He’s our version of JJ Watt.”

With aims at getting faster off the ball, Hladik is now shooting hoops for Glen Garvie’s Panthers and sticking to his gym routine. Ben, who turns 17 in March, is a big Green Bay Packer backer.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Family Literacy Week is being celebrated in downtown Vernon with the first ever Story-Window Walk Jan. 21-31. (Literacy Society of North Okanagan)
Catch a Yeti in downtown Vernon

Literacy Week celebrated with first ever Story-Window Walk

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

A Salvation Army bell is rung by Michael Cronin as he staffs the charity’s red donation kettle in front of a grocery store, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Lynden, Wash. The familiar ringing of handbells has gone silent at many Canadian shopping malls this year as the Salvation Army tries to cope with COVID-19 rules at a time of dropping donations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Elaine Thompson
Record-breaking Christmas for Vernon Salvation Army

$640K and significant food donations pour into local organization ahead of holidays

A 2002 F350 was stolen from a Whitevale home sometime overnight Jan. 14. (Contributed)
Truck stolen near Lumby overnight

Lifted Ford stolen from Whitevale Road

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Real estate sales in the South Okanagan grew by more than any other part of the province in 2020. (Marissa Tiel - Black Press)
South Okanagan fastest growing real estate market in B.C.

There was over $1 billion in residential sales in 2020

Most Read