Levi Nicholas (left) of the Vernon Panthers is taken down by a Valleyview Viking player in Okanagan junior varisty football play Wednesday at Grahame Park.

Levi Nicholas (left) of the Vernon Panthers is taken down by a Valleyview Viking player in Okanagan junior varisty football play Wednesday at Grahame Park.

Panthers smother Valleyview attack

Vernon Panthers stuff Valleyview Vikings 28-6 Wednesday in junior varsity football play.

An opportunistic defence, mixed with a few big plays, was a successful combination as the Vernon Panthers stuffed the Valleyview Vikings 28-6 Wednesday in junior varsity football play.

John Garvie hit Ty Thomas midway through the first quarter for a 38-yard touchdown to put the Cats up 8-0 on the Kamloops boys at Grahame Park.

On the ensuing drive, Valleyview drove the length of the field and threatened to score. However, Grade 8 defensive tackle Tyler Riva had other ideas and stripped the ball carrier at the four-yard line. Seven plays later, tailback Levi Nicholas broke free on a beautiful 75-yard TD run to make it 14-0.

The Cats added to their lead just before halftime when Garvie threw a perfect ball to a streaking Kyle Ryder for a 38-yard score to give VSS a comfortable 20-0 lead at the break.

“I was very impressed with our ability to mix it up on offence,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “They stacked the box against us and dared us to put it up. We responded with a few long pass plays that resulted in touchdowns.”

A scoreless third quarter was highlighted by another goal-line stand for the Panther defence. Staring down a fourth-and-goal, Louis Wesner jarred the ball loose and the Cats recovered it on their own one.

The fourth quarter opened with a 20-yard Valleyview touchdown reception. However, the game was sealed by a Garvie 38-yard interception return for a touchdown. Ryder hauled in the two-point convert.

“Our defence relied on the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy,” added Smith. “We were ball hawks out there today and managed three fumble recoveries and three interceptions (Isaiah Wenger, Zach Hyer and Garvie). Creating turnovers has been an emphasis at practice the past two weeks so it was great to see it pay off today.”

“Louis Wesner (six tackles and a fumble recovery), Isaiah Wenger (one pick and three tackles) and Jeff Hiscoe (two QB sacks) impressed the coaching staff today.

The win guarantees the Panthers no lower than a second-place seed heading into the playoffs. Vernon travels to Salmon Arm to take on the AAA Golds in an exhibition game next Wednesday.