Panthers second in the province

Some pretty sweet bloodlines helped the Seaquam Seahawks of Delta stop the Vernon Panthers in the Subway Bowl

Ben Hladik of the Vernon Panthers.

Ben Hladik of the Vernon Panthers.

Morning Star Staff

Some pretty sweet bloodlines helped the Seaquam Seahawks of Delta stop the Vernon Panthers in the Subway Bowl AA senior varsity football championship Saturday at B.C. Place.

Grade 11 twins Jaden and Tyson Philpot, sons of former CFLer Cory Philpot (1994 Grey Cup with B.C. Lions) jumpstarted the second-ranked Seahawks to a 35-15 victory for their first provincial title in 10 years.

Jerry Mulliss, 70, capped a 49-year sideline career by winning his first every title as a coach. He underwent sextuple bypass heart surgery last spring yet returned in the fall ready to coach.

“I don’t really know what to say,” Mulliss told The Vancouver Province. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s especially sweet because it’s the end of a career.”

No. 1 VSS was trying to become the first Vernon high school to win a B.C. football title.

Jalen Philpot took the second snap 48 yards and then two plays later, scored on a one-yard plunge. The Seahawks went in front 21-0 at the half and were up 28-0 until provincial Player of the Year, tight end Ben Hladik hauled in a 14-yard TD pass from Grade 10 quarterback Thomas Hyett.

Tysen Philpot set off a two-minute scoring barrage late in the first quarter by intercepting a Hyett pass and returning it to the 25-yard line. With 14 seconds left in the opening quarter, QB Josh Haydu connected with Tysen on a 16-yard touchdown pass.

Three plays later, senior linebacker Niko Bertuzzi picked off another Hyett pass and returned it for a TD.

“Seaquam came out ready to play,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “I knew they were fast, but their speed was hard for us to contend with in the first half and we got ourselves into a hole we couldn’t recover from. That two-minute stretch proved to be fatal for us as we were able to keep the game even after that. Full credit to Seaquam.

“They were the best team on the field, had a great game-plan to stop us and dominated in every aspect of the game. Their defence suffocated us in the first half and got us away from our game-plan. We were hoping to run the ball more effectively, but getting 24 yards on 21 carries forced us into some passing situations that resulted in interceptions. ”

The second quarter opened with another Seaquam touchdown before the Panthers got on the board. Haldik (9 catches for 64 yds) hauled in the 14-yarder from Hyett (17 of 24 for 115 yards) and then ran another one in from five yards out to make the score 28-15.

Seaquam put the game out of reach with a fourth-quarter touchdown to round out the scoring.

“I am very proud of what this team was able to accomplish this season,” said Smith, who headed to Seattle to watch the Seahawks stomp the Carolina Panthers Sunday night.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed in the score of the final game, but I liked that we rebounded in the second half and played them even. While we didn’t bring home a title, these boys set the bar higher for our football program and made it further than any team has gone before. We lost to a very talented Seaquam squad who was fully deserving of the championship.”

Grade 12 linebacker Tyler Semeniuk led all Vernon tacklers with 7.5 and one sack, while Hladik and Dawson Horvath chipped in with six apiece.

Smith credits the leadership of his graduating players for the most successful season the program has ever had (the juniors placed top-4 in B.C.).

“We were fortunate to have had Grade 12s that were heavily invested in Panther football and were willing to put in the time and energy required to reach the provincial finals. Some have been with me since Grade 8, so it’s sad to see them leave. However, they can be proud that they left the program in better shape than when they entered. I heard an ex-NFL player say on the radio today that there is winning and there is learning. I think our program learned from this experience and I’m hopeful that a championship is on the horizon for us.”

Smith also credits his assistants (Tim Thorpe and Lance Heron) along with trainer Mike Riva for the breakthrough year.

“Our staff consisted of a total of three coaches and one trainer for two teams. To have that kind of success with such a small coaching staff required a serious time commitment from them. They went above and beyond in terms of their dedication to our program and I’m very grateful for their devotion to Panther football.”